Frequently Asked Questions
How was the Commission formed?
The Commission is a constitutionally created body that was approved by the voters of Virginia on November 3, 2020.
What role is the Commission playing in determining Virginia's electoral maps?
Pursuant to Article II, Section 6 of the Virginia Constitution, the Virginia Redistricting Commission is convened for the purpose of establishing districts for the United States House of Representatives and for the Senate and the House of Delegates of the General Assembly.
Who serves on the Commission
Per the Virginia Constitution, the Commission consists of 16 commissioners, including:
- Eight commissioners who are legislative members, four members of the Senate of Virginia and four members of the House of Delegates.
- Of the Senate members, two must be members of the majority political party in the Senate of Virginia, appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate of Virginia, and two commissioners shall represent the political party having the next highest number of members in the Senate, appointed by the leader of that political party.
- Of the House members, two must be members of the majority political party in the House of Delegates, appointed by the Speaker of the House, and two commissioners shall represent the political party having the next highest number of members in the House of Delegates and shall be appointed by the leader of that political party.
- Eight commissioners must be citizen members who are selected in accordance with the Virginia Constitution and state law.
The members of the Commission, including their contact information, are listed here.
PUBLIC INPUT AND ENGAGEMENT
How can members of the public provide input for the Commission to consider?
- During 2021 redistricting the Virginia Redistricting website allowed members of the public to share and describe communities of interest. Click here to view those submissions.
- View 2021 Commission proposed maps and public submitted maps on the website by clicking here.
Can members of the public submit maps to be considered by the Commission?
During 2021 redistricting members of the public were able to submit maps for consideration through the Virginia Redistricting Commission website.
What are the guidelines for public participation?
Please view the written Public Participation Guidelines.
What do I need to know about public hearings?
Please view the Public Hearings FAQs. Included in the FAQs is a regional map and a list outlining the eight regions of Virginia that will be used for public hearings.
How do I find out about meetings?
Information about meetings will be posted on the Meetings and Hearings page on the Commission's website. You may also follow the Commission on Twitter (@CommissionVA) and Facebook page (@VaRedistrictingCommission) for news about upcoming meetings.
How can I make verbal comments during a public meeting?
Beginning July 1, 2021, all meetings at which votes are taken on matters before the commission will be in person. The public is invited to attend in order to share verbal comments with the Commission. A sign-up sheet will be available in the meeting room an hour before a meeting's start time and speakers will be given their opportunity to speak on a first-come, first-serve basis. Signup to provide virtual public comment at in person meetings will be conducted on the Meetings and Hearings page of the Commission's website and will close 24 hours prior to the meeting. The Commission is authorized to conduct virtual meetings held solely to receive presentations, updates, public comment, or conduct other forms of information gathering. No votes will be taken at such meetings. Signup to provide public comment at such virtual meetings will also be conducted on the Meetings and Hearings page of the Commission's website and will close 24 hours prior to the meeting.
How can I view past meetings?
Meetings are recorded and the video is posted on the Meetings and Hearings page of the Commission's website.
What are legally permissible methods of contacting the Commission?
A key mission of the Commission is to ensure an open and transparent redistricting process where no one person has undue influence on the work of the Commission. As such, the law prohibits the commissioners and staff for the Commission from communicating with persons outside of the Commission about matters related to redistricting and reapportionment outside of a public meeting or hearing. You may write or email the Commission, its staff, or any of the commissioners, but their ability to respond is limited by law. Submission of written public comment is also permissible, as is providing live public comment at a meeting or hearing of the Commission.
What is the timeline for establishing district maps once the 2020 Census Data is received?
Per the constitutional amendment, the timeline for drawing maps and submitting those maps to the General Assembly for approval begins with the receipt of Census Data and goes from there. The Commission expects to work on maps through the month of September and to have public hearings on maps for General Assembly districts in the beginning of October. Submission of maps to the General Assembly is expected to happen between October 10th and October 24th. Consideration of Congressional maps is expected to begin as the process for creating General Assembly maps comes to a close. Congressional maps are expected to be submitted on or before November 8th.
Where do I find official updates about the timeline for release of the 2020 Census Data?
Visit the Census Bureau’s website for official information regarding the 2020 Census Data.
How does the delay of 2020 Census Data impact Virginia Redistricting?
View statement of impact on Virginia’s Redistricting Commission.
How does the delay of 2020 Census Data and redistricting affect the Virginia elections in 2021?
The Commission has no constitutional or statutory authority regarding the scheduling or administration of Virginia elections, including those held in 2021. The Commission's focus is carrying out its constitutional duty of drawing and submitting state and congressional maps to the General Assembly within, respectively, 45 and 60 days of receipt of the 2020 Census Data. Information on Virginia's elections can be found at elections.virginia.gov.
STANDARDS AND CRITERIA
What standards and criteria will be used by the Commission to constitute the electoral maps?
The Code of Virginia sets the standards and criteria that must be followed when developing the electoral maps. The Commission has also adopted Guidelines and Criteria to adhere to, which are described below in order of the priority:
- Population equality
- Each legislative district should be drawn to be as equal as practicable, with total population variances minimized, with a target of no more than plus or minus 2%.
- Each congressional district shall be drawn with a total population of plus or minus one person from the ideal district size.
- Voting rights and political participation -- All plans proposed by the Commission will comply with federal law, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended; the Virginia Constitution; and other Commonwealth law on minority voting rights. This includes consideration of the racially polarized voting analysis conducted on behalf of the Commission and reconstituted election returns.
Communities of interest -- To maintain the communities of interest in the Commonwealth as required by Virginia law, the Commission shall consider the following requirements, in order of priority:
- Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.
- The integrity and priority of existing political subdivisions should be preserved to the extent possible by avoiding unnecessary divisions of those subdivisions.
- Districts shall have clearly defined and clearly discernible boundaries.
- Districts shall be reasonably compact as compared with existing political subdivisions.
- Neighborhoods or any geographically defined group of people living in an area who share similar social, cultural, and economic interests shall be maintained to the extent possible.
- Political neutrality -- Maps shall not favor or disfavor any political party. The Commission may review political data to ensure compliance with this political neutrality provision and may consider incumbent addresses as part of the drafting process.
How are communities of interest defined?
Virginia Code defines communities of interest as a neighborhood or any geographically defined group of people living in an area who share similar social, cultural, and economic interests. A "community of interest" does not include a community based upon political affiliation or relationship with a political party, elected official, or candidate for office.
THE REDISTRICTING PROCESS
How is the redistricting process this year different from previous years?
In years past, redistricting was accomplished by the normal legislative process (i.e. bills passed by a majority of both houses signed by the Governor), with the legislature drawing the maps. This year, maps can only be drawn by the Commission. The maps drawn by the Commission for General Assembly districts will be described in a single bill that cannot be amended by the legislature. The congressional maps will be described in a separate bill. The bills still need to receive a majority vote of both houses of the legislature to pass, but approval by the Governor is no longer required.
Which electoral district maps will the Commission be developing?
The Commission will develop electoral maps for Congressional and state legislative districts. Localities (i.e. cities and counties) are responsible for redistricting their own election districts.
What is the timeline for the Commission to submit electoral maps to the General Assembly?
The Virginia Constitution requires that the Commission submit to the General Assembly plans for districts for the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates of the General Assembly no later than 45 days following the receipt of census data. Plans for districts for the United States House of Representatives must be submitted to the General Assembly no later than 60 days following the receipt of census data or by the first day of July of that year, whichever occurs later. If the Commission fails to meet those deadlines, they have an extra 14 days to submit maps but, with the consequence that revised maps may not be submitted in the event that the General Assembly fails to pass the maps originally submitted.
What are the vote requirements for the Commission to approve plans to be submitted to the General Assembly?
The Virginia Constitution lays out the following with respect to decision making by the Commission:
- To be submitted as a proposed plan for districts for members of the United States House of Representatives, a plan must receive affirmative votes of at least six of the eight legislative members and six of the eight citizen members.
- To be submitted as a proposed plan for districts for members of the Virginia Senate, a plan must receive affirmative votes of at least six of the eight legislative members, including at least three of the four legislative members who are members of the Senate, and at least six of the eight citizen members.
- To be submitted as a proposed plan for districts for members of the House of Delegates, a plan must receive affirmative votes of at least six of the eight legislative members, including at least three of the four legislative members who are members of the House of Delegates, and at least six of the eight citizen members.
What role will the General Assembly play in approving the electoral maps?
The Virginia Constitution leaves the responsibility of formally adopting the congressional and state legislative district maps with the General Assembly, but the General Assembly is not permitted to make any amendments to the plan submitted by the Commission. The General Assembly must vote on bills that outline the plans for districts set forth by the Commission. State legislative districts (House and Senate) must be taken up in a single bill and Congressional districts in a separate bill. The General Assembly must pass a bill by a simple majority for the districts to be adopted. The bills are not sent to the Governor for signature, nor can the Governor otherwise veto the bills.
What happens in the General Assembly fails to adopt the bill with the election district plan within 15 days of receipt?
The Virginia Constitution states that, if the General Assembly fails to adopt the bill by the 15-day deadline, the Commission must submit a new plan for districts to the General Assembly within 14 days of the General Assembly's failure to adopt the bill. The General Assembly must take a vote on the bill embodying the revised plan within seven days of receipt of the plan.
What happens if the General Assembly fails to adopt the second plan for districts submitted by the Commission within seven days of receipt?
Per the Virginia Constitution, if the General Assembly fails to adopt the second redistricting plan by the seven-day requirement, the districts shall be established by the Supreme Court of Virginia.
Will the Commission be developing electoral maps for local government districts?
No -- Virginia Code authorizes the governing body of those counties, cities and towns that have structures other than entirely at-large to redraw districts/wards. Every 10 years, each locality is required to redraw districts/wards, including, if the governing body deems it appropriate, increasing or diminishing the number of such districts/wards to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation on the basis of population. Virginia law requires districts/wards to be:
Composed of contiguous and compact territory.
Give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district or ward.
Developed based on the most recent decennial population figures for such county, city, or town from the United States Bureau of the Census, as adjusted by the Division of Legislative Services pursuant to § 24.2-314.
The Division of Legislative Services published the Guide to Local Redistricting for 2021 in November 2020; it can be found here.