(The Center Square) – Virginia’s redistricting commission failed to reach a compromise on new district maps before Saturday’s deadline after three Democratic members abruptly walked out of the meeting.
Commission Co-chair Greta Harris told commission members she did not believe all members were sincere in their willingness to compromise and thought the commission was at an impasse that could not be broken. After she failed to get the necessary votes to adjourn the meeting, she and two other Democratic members walked out of the room, which broke the quorum and prevented members from passing any motions.
“If I can’t believe that the people that I’m supposed to work with are true and sincere, regrettably I am done,” Harris said. “...I will remove myself from the commission at this point.”
Some Republican and Democratic legislative members had continued to insist that compromises could be made, citing that such apparent impasses are frequently overcome during the legislative process.
“I’m not someone who just throws in the towel and gives up because we can’t reach a consensus at this point in time,” Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, said.
Stanley said the process may look like a hamster wheel for members who have no legislative experiences, but said he’s worked with Democrats to reach compromises on many occasions, including with Democrats who are on the commission.
Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, one of the members who Stanley said he worked with, agreed with Stanley, saying he is optimistic that the commission could make progress. He suggested the commission first try to reach an agreement on the Senate maps, which he believed would be easier to make progress on, and then move on to the House maps.
Republicans and Democratic members have evenly split most of the commission votes along party lines. The commission hired a Republican and a Democratic firm to develop their own map proposals. The Republican firm’s proposals predictably would have favored Republicans electorally and the Democratic firms proposals predictably would have favored Democrats electorally.
With neither side willing to budge, both Democrats and Republicans offered compromises on how the commission should move forward, but neither could garner support from the other side of the aisle. Democrats voted to use a Democratic-drawn Senate map and a Republican-drawn House map as the starting point for redistricting. The Republicans wanted to have one Democratic-drawn and one Republican-drawn map considered for both the House and the Senate.
If the commission cannot reach a compromise, the maps will be drawn by the Virginia Supreme Court.