Da’Quan Love, Executive Director
(Washington, D.C.) – Virginia’s newly-enacted statewide redistricting maps appear to largely maintain current levels of representation for Virginia’s Black communities, but continued vigilance is needed to ensure Black Virginians’ ability to elect candidates of choice under the new maps, according to the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP (“Virginia NAACP”), Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Office of the General Counsel of the NAACP, and the law firm Hogan Lovells US LLP.
The new maps, presented to the Supreme Court of Virginia by two court-appointed map-drawers (“Special Masters”) and subsequently adopted by the court, included adjustments reflecting the Virginia NAACP’s independent analysis and proposed maps submitted to the court on December 17, 2021. This submission highlighted flaws in the Special Masters’ analysis of Black voting strength in their initial maps based on their reliance on recent American Community Survey data rather than the complete-count 2020 Census data, an issue the Special Masters acknowledged in their memorandum accompanying the final maps that cited the Virginia NAACP’s submission. Adjustments were also made to several district lines encompassing Black communities, bringing them closer to the Virginia NAACP-proposed maps generated in close collaboration and consultation with community members, a key goal of the submission.
“Black Virginians have a right to fair representation, and we appreciate the Supreme Court and Special Masters’ responsiveness to our submission and other public comments,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “While the adoption of these maps marks the end of a very fraught redistricting process in Virginia, our work is just beginning – we will continue to monitor how these maps perform in actual elections, and all must remain vigilant in ensuring Black Virginians have an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice as required by federal and state law.”
The current redistricting cycle was the first in Virginia after passage of a state constitutional amendment establishing a sixteen-member commission comprised of legislators and citizens from the two major political parties to redraw the maps. The commission failed to agree on any maps after deadlocking along partisan lines, however, transferring the process to the Virginia Supreme Court. While the commission held numerous public hearings across the commonwealth over several months, the court held just two public hearings after releasing initial draft maps, and none after releasing the final versions of the maps before voting to adopt them. This process denied community members an opportunity to weigh in at a critical stage.
“The Virginia NAACP has worked tirelessly to ensure that the voices of Black Virginians are heard in this redistricting cycle, including engaging with over 3,300 community members throughout 2021,” said Robert Barnette, president of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP. “While some may find this result acceptable, it is clear from the failure of the commission process that further reform is needed in order to fulfil the promise of a fair and equitable redistricting process in Virginia. We will not stop advocating for fair representation for Virginia’s Black communities and other communities of color, and for a redistricting process that is truly open and accountable to the community members whose lives and opportunities are most at stake.”
“We were proud to represent the Virginia NAACP in this process that is so critical to our democracy, and we are deeply committed to pro bono work to ensure fair representation for all,” said Tom Connally, partner at Hogan Lovells.
View the Virginia NAACP written submission and proposed maps here.
View the Supreme Court of Virginia’s final redistricting order and adopted maps here.