Aug. 21 (UPI) — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam called for a special session of the Virginia General Assembly on Monday to redraw the districts of the Virginia House of Delegates.
Northam, a Democrat, signed a proclamation to hold the session Aug. 30 to redraw the district lines after a court ruled they were gerrymandered.
“It is in the public interest for the General Assembly to finalize constitutional maps as soon as possible — Virginians deserve that clarity,” Northam said. “I am calling a special session so we can focus our collective attention on doing what’s right: working together to draw lines that represent Virginians fairly.”
In June, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled lawmakers unconstitutionally gerrymandered the districts on racial lines in the 2011 redistricting process and gave Republican House leaders until Oct. 30 to redraw 11 House districts, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox issued a statement in response to Northam’s proclamation, noting House Republicans had appealed the court’s ruling and were given a deadline of Aug. 24 to state whether they planned to abide by the ruling.
“The special session does not change our plans to pursue all the legal protections provided to us by federal law and the Constitution,” Cox said.
He also outlined the responsibilities of redrawing the districts and said House Republicans look forward to reviewing Northam’s proposal in the special session.
“Drawing a map that can withstand legal scrutiny is neither a quick nor simple process,” Cox said. “The General Assembly must establish criteria, hold committee meetings, and gather public input from across the commonwealth.”
The new map would go into effect in 2019, when all of the states House and Senate seats will be up for election.