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Virginia Supreme Court Picks Special Masters to Aid Redistricting Effort

November 20, 2021 by Dan McCue
(Photo by GeoJango Maps via Unsplash)

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Supreme Court has selected two “special masters” to assist the court in redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

In a unanimous decision, the justices selected Sean Trende, a senior elections analyst for RealClearPolitics and a visiting scholar of the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based public policy think tank, as the successful Republican nominee.

And they selected Bernard Grofman, a professor of political science at the University of California, Irvine, to serve as the Virginia Democrats’ representative in the redistricting effort.

Trende has given expert testimony in a racial gerrymandering case in North Carolina and political gerrymandering cases in multiple states, and was appointed as a Voting Rights Act expert by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

Grofman, meanwhile, served as special master to the courts in the redrawing of Virginia’s congressional districts in 2015 and House of Delegates districts in 2018.

The Well News has reached out to both for comment on their appointments.

The two special masters now have up to 30 days to work together on new political maps to submit to the court for consideration.

“The Court directs the Special Masters to confer among themselves to propose a single redistricting map for the Virginia House of Delegates, a single redistricting map for the Senate of Virginia, and a single redistricting map for Virginia’s representatives to the United States House of Representatives,” the justices wrote in an order released Friday.

As previously reported in The Well News, the once-a-decade process of redrawing Virginia’s electoral maps is now in the hands of the state Supreme Court after a new 16-member commission created by a constitutional amendment failed to reach agreement on new political maps. 

The justices then asked Democratic and Republican leaders in the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate to submit three or more qualified nominees without conflicts of interest by Nov. 1.

The court’s final decision on the two map drawers came a week after the justices rejected all three of the Republicans’ nominees and ordered state legislative leaders to nominate new candidates.

In their order to find new nominees, the justices said they didn’t have concerns about any of the candidates’ honesty, but wrote that work one special master nominee did for the Virginia Senate Republican caucus created a conflict. 

The court disqualified that cartographer and the other two map makers, citing concerns about their ability to serve in the role.

It also told the Democrats to submit at least one additional nominee after one of the party’s first picks expressed reservations about participating in the process.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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