California professor from 2015 gerrymandering case will redraw Virginia’s voting map

By: - October 18, 2018 5:56 pm
The Virginia House of Delegates met Thursday to discuss redistricting, but didn't get far. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury - Aug. 30, 2018)

The Virginia House of Delegates. Delegates voted Monday to pass legislation that will provide protections for residents evicted from assisted living facilities in Virginia. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury – Aug. 30, 2018)

Bernard Grofman, a political science professor at University of California, Irvine, who has worked on another Virginia redistricting case, will redraw more of the state’s voting maps as a court-appointed “special master” to fix 11 House of Delegates districts that were ruled to be racially gerrymandered.

The contested districts were originally approved by Republicans and Democrats in 2011. In June, the court, following a legal challenge, ruled that lawmakers illegally packed black voters into the districts, diluting their voting strength, and needed to fix them by Oct. 30.

Democrats proposed a plan that weakened five Republican delegates and drew two Republicans out of their districts. Del. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, who oversaw the 2011 redistricting, later presented a map at the end of September he said he drew without considering race.

After a House committee advanced Jones’ bill, Gov. Ralph Northam said he would veto any map that came to his desk. Speaker of the House Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, canceled future meetings to move a map forward.

“I do not think we should waste legislators’ time or taxpayer money on a session when the governor’s mind is evidently made up,” Cox said in a statement. “There was clear progress being made toward a bipartisan legislative solution, and while we wish those efforts could continue it’s obvious that both the governor and the Democratic leadership would rather have federal judges draw the map than allow the legislature to fulfill its constitutional responsibility.”

The Office of the Attorney General suggested Grofman, since he handled redrawing of the 3rd Congressional District in 2015.

Republicans opposed Grofman’s appointment in a September court filing, saying that when he redrew the 3rd district, it benefited Democrats and cost former Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes a seat.

“This deprived Virginia of a high-ranking member of Congress,” Republicans wrote.

According to Grofman’s 82-page resume, he’s consulted or served as an expert witness in redistricting cases in New York and Georgia. Grofman has been retained as an expert witness or consultant for Republicans in Colorado and Hawaii and the Republican National Committee in the early 1980s.

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Mechelle Hankerson
Mechelle Hankerson

Mechelle, born and raised in Virginia Beach, is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in mass communications and a concentration in print journalism. She covered the General Assembly for the university’s Capital News Service and was among 12 student journalists in swing states selected by the Washington Post to cover the 2012 presidential election. For the past five years, she has covered local government, crime, housing, infrastructure and other issues at the Raleigh News & Observer and The Virginian-Pilot, where she most recently covered the state’s biggest city, Virginia Beach. Mechelle was with the Virginia Mercury until January 3rd, 2019.