Statement of Executive Director Brian Cannon following Senate Privileges and Elections Vote

January 23, 2019

Yesterday, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted on several bills involving legislative redistricting in Virginia – including SJ274, a bipartisan constitutional amendment proposing an independent Citizens’ Redistricting Commission.

In the end, it was a split decision for OneVirginia2021. SJ274 was killed in committee, however a number of other redistricting reform measures passed through to the full Senate – including SJ306 (Barker-Saslaw), receiving bipartisan support in the committee.

SJ306 shares substantive provisions found in SJ274, including:

  • Constitutional Amendment, and not simply a law that could be undone
  • This commission includes eight citizen members, including the chair
  • The citizen selection process is identical to the one outlined in SJ274
  • Prohibits the General Assembly from amending the final map
  • A final committee vote requires 12 of 16 members, preventing one faction or party from colluding

For context, SJ306 differs from SJ274:

  • Number of committee members is 16 instead of 10
  • Committee members are split between citizens and legislators (8 of each)
  • Legislature is given authority to approve or reject the committee’s final map
  • Lacks specific provisions prohibiting gerrymandering
  • Does not require meetings to be fully transparent

Executive Director Brian Cannon released the following statement following the committee hearing:

“It is disappointing that SJ274 won’t be moving forward, but we are excited that a substantive constitutional amendment passed through the committee. If passed, this amendment could significantly change the way districts are drawn in Virginia.

I am encouraged that Senator Barker’s amendment received bipartisan support on the committee – even from members that have never supported reform measures in the past.

We would like to thank Senators Hanger, Locke, and Sturtevant for their incredible support of our amendment.

As the bill is considered in the full Senate, we strongly urge lawmakers to include provisions about full transparency and clear rules that prohibit gerrymandering and keep our communities together.

Looking ahead, we look forward to working with members of both parties in the General Assembly to make sure significant reforms are passed this year.

We are determined give Virginians a better way to draw district lines than the hyperpolitical process we have now.  Today was a step in the right direction towards that goal.”