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Virginia Supreme Court approves new political maps

Map of virginia with district boundaries
Virginia's new map for the House of Representatives, which changed substantially following a period of public comment. (Map courtesy of Supreme Court of Virginia)

Politicians and voters in Virginia are poring over the commonwealth’s new political maps unanimously approved by the Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The new maps were drawn by two experts hired by the Virginia Supreme Court after a new redistricting commission deadlocked. The experts – Bernard Grofman, an academic who was nominated by top Democrats in the General Assembly, and Sean Trende, a political analyst who was picked by Republican leadership –  altered their original draft maps after hearing public feedback this month.

Democrats will have an advantage in six of Virginia’s 11 House of Representative races, with one seat a tossup, according to the analysis of election results from 2016 through 2020. The map-drawers say that reflects the political trends in a state President Joe Biden won by ten points. The experts say their map also gives Republicans – who swept last months’ statewide elections – a shot at winning majorities in Virginia’s General Assembly and Congressional delegation in a good year.

Democrats will hold a 23-17 edge in state Senate races and 53-47 edge in the House of Delegates, according to the so-called “special masters’” partisan calculations drawn from the results of the 2017 attorney general race.

The map-drawers chose to ignore where incumbents live, meaning they may now have to face off in primaries.

“In consultation with the Court, we have rejected calls to actively educate ourselves further on the residences of incumbents,” Trende and Groffman wrote. “Adopting this prudential consideration would seem to be at odds with the overall redistricting scheme enacted by Virginia voters.”

One prominent Congressional Representative -- Democrat Abigail Spanberger -- would also see her district migrate north, away from her home in the Richmond suburbs.

Here are the new maps for:

A copy of the special masters’ memo is available here.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.