Bipartisan Passage of SJ18 for Redistricting Amendment

After years of hard work by OneVirginia2021, members of the State Senate, members of the House of Delegates, and others, the amendment for redistricting reform finally passed the House of Delegates Friday afternoon. The amendment, calling for an independent commission, will be on the ballot in November.

The issue had been promoted and guided by the bipartisan Commonwealth Caucus that represented all areas of Virginia. Co-chaired by Sen. Emmett Hanger, a Republican, and Del. Suhas Subramanyam, a Democrat, they were joined by Del. John Avoli (R), Sen. John Bell (D), Del. Robert Bloxom (R), Del. Carrie Coyner (R), Del. Glenn Davis (R), Del. James Edmunds (R), Del. Dan Helmer (D), Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R), Del. Martha Mugler (D), Del. Sam Rasoul (D), and Sen. Jill Vogel (R).

Reporter Mel Leonor with the Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote:

In a 54-46 vote that saw nine Democrats join Republicans, the House paved the way for a statewide referendum on the issue in November and the possibility of constitutional reform in time for the 2021 map-drawing process.

The vote settled a heated, weeks-long, internal fight among Democrats, who remained divided on the issue up to the highest ranks until the final vote.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn was visibly shaken when a last-ditch effort to substitute language setting up an alternative plan failed on a 53-47 vote.

Negotiations got heated on Thursday as those who wanted the bill had to fight it from going down in flames. Friday’s passage was a larger victory because of the battle.

From the Times-Dispatch:

If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would shift power over the drawing of districts from the General Assembly to a 16-member bipartisan commission of legislators and citizens. In the event of an impasse, the Supreme Court of Virginia would have the final say. The commission would feature four lawmakers of each party.

Republicans, who for years blocked reform efforts until the 2019 session, remained unified in their support for the measure Friday, believing it the best path to have a seat at the redistricting table now that they are in the minority.

Below is the statement issued by OneVirginia2021

Common Cause, the nonpartisan grassroots organization, released a statement:

The Virginia House of Delegates today approved Senate Joint Resolution 18, a proposed constitutional amendment creating a nonpartisan Redistricting Commission to draw district lines after each Census. Voters will decide in November whether to adopt the amendment.

“This is a historic moment for redistricting reform – the first time a legislature in a state without the initiative process has sent constitutional redistricting reform to the ballot. We thank the legislators from both parties who voted yes,” said Kathay Feng, National Redistricting Manager for Common Cause. “Every vote should count and every voice should matter. Virginians deserve to have a seat at the redistricting table and a redistricting process that puts the interests of communities above the interests of politicians. We appreciate the dedication shown by delegates from both sides of the aisle to a redistricting process that works for everyone. Today’s vote was an historic step forward.”

The Senate passed the measure last month with overwhelming bipartisan support. Today, the House of Delegates passed it with a bipartisan vote of 54-46. The constitutional amendment will now go before the voters on the November General Election ballot.

Feng said, “Now Virginia voters will have the opportunity in November to decide whether they want redistricting in Virginia to be done behind closed doors by a select group of political insiders, or whether they want their friends and neighbors to have a seat at the table. There is no such thing as a perfect reform, but this is a huge step toward transparent and inclusive democracy as it should be in Virginia.”

The constitutional amendment is supplemented by comprehensive enabling legislation that passed both chambers with broad support.


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