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Senate Democratic leaders decry Republican redistricting nominees

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AP File Photo: Virginia State Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, gestures as he addresses the members during the Senate session at the Science Museum in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A group of Democratic Virginia senators complained that Republicans nominated partisan map drawers for the derailed redistricting process.

The Republican nominees have either recently accepted money from Republican groups or worked on maps that were later struck down due to partisan gerrymandering.

In a letter to the court, the Democratic senators argue Virginia’s new transparent, bipartisan redistricting law says nominees, referred to as special masters, should be professionally qualified and have no conflicts of interest. With the failure of the redistricting committee, the two major parties are required to nominate three map drawers each for the Virginia Supreme Court to appoint from.

Democrats are concerned that the Republicans have nominated experts who have all worked with state GOP parties in the past on redistricting. In a release, Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) wrote, “Republican caucuses have asked the Supreme Court of Virginia to effectively sanction partisan map drawing."

One of the nominees, Thomas Bryan, was paid $20,000 in consulting fees by the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus this year, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Two other nominees, Adam Foltz and Adam Kincaid, have long ties to the Republican party, and worked on maps later struck down over partisan gerrymandering. Foltz worked on  Wisconsin’s 2010 electoral maps, and Kincaid on Ohio’s 2010 maps.

Democrats proposed three academics who have published books and papers on redistricting and partisanship. One of those nominees, Bruce Cain, worked with the Maryland Attorney General on that state’s redistricting in 2011, a process that led to some of the most gerrymandered districts in the nation. 

It is unclear what the court will define as a “conflict of interest” for map drawers.

House Republicans declined to comment on this story.

 

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Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.