Alex Keena


The redistricting cycle that followed the 2020 census provided the first test of Virginia’s redistricting reforms that were enacted when voters approved the constitutional amendment in the 2020 General Election. The centerpiece of these reforms is the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission, comprised of eight citizen and eight legislator members. This article details how the 2021 redistricting occurred under the new reforms, and it evaluates the maps that were ultimately approved.

While the selection of the commissioners unfolded successfully and in accordance with the law, the work of the commission was mired by partisan fighting and dysfunction. Nevertheless, a statistical analysis of the maps drafted by the Republican and Democratic commissioners suggests that they were largely free of one-party bias, in contrast to the maps approved during the previous redistricting cycle, when Republicans racially gerrymandered the congressional and House of Delegates maps to achieve a partisan advantage. Ultimately, the Commission deadlocked, and redistricting shifted to the Supreme Court of Virginia (SCOVA), which appointed two special masters to draw the maps. The maps drawn by the special masters and approved by SCOVA are free of extreme partisan bias and advance the goals of minority representation, competitiveness, and partisan neutrality. In the selection of the special masters and subsequent approval of their maps, the Supreme Court demonstrated a commitment to fairness and transparency, and to redistricting standards approved by the General Assembly in 2020. In sum, the 2020 redistricting reforms succeeded in preventing gerrymandering. However, the redistricting process can be further improved by establishing multimember districts with a single transferable vote rule, and by replacing politician members of the Virginia Redistricting Commission with citizen members with no partisan preference.