A man casts his ballot at an early voting center at the University of the District of Columbia on October 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images) Casting a Ballot
A man casts his ballot at an early voting center at the University of the District of Columbia on October 27, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

With a resignation in hand, the Virginia Redistricting Commission looks to fill the void. 

RICHMOND – The Virginia Redistricting Commission needs to find one final member, before hearing from local residents.

At their meeting on Tuesday, citizen commissioner Marvin Gilliam of Bristol announced his resignation over the phone, effective Wednesday. Gilliam did not attend the Richmond meeting in person.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here. I wish I could’ve met people in person. It would have been much more fulfilling, I think,” Gilliam said. “But I do wish everyone good luck moving forward. And [you] have a difficult task ahead of you and I wish you the best.”

Commission co-chair Greta Harris thanked Gilliam for the work he did on behalf of the commission.

A total of 14 names remain on the original citizen commissioner list submitted to the election committee. Those individuals will receive a call in the coming days. 

“We will contact those 14 individuals to see if they are still interested in serving,” said Amigo Wade, acting director of the Virginia Division of Legislative Services. “Those that say they are interested in serving, we will provide full copies of the application packets, just as we provided to the selection committee.” 

Wade noted that the process wouldn’t involve heavy duty engagement. 

“It’s going to be, ‘Do you still want to serve? If so, we want to get you all that information,’” Wade said.

The commission has the authority to recommend the replacement from the designated list of citizens. Once the commission goes through the list, they will make a recommendation for a replacement and take a vote.

Redistricting Commission Holds Hearings 

But what about the maps? When residents voted to create the redistricting commission last November, it was with the impression maps would be drawn up by now. That way Virginia could use the new districts in this year’s state elections. However, thanks to a variety of delays last year, the census data didn’t arrive by March 31 as expected. Instead, Census Bureau officials hope to send it out by August.

As the commission waits, they want to hear from local residents in a series of hearings. They want to know what people hate about the current system, what they like and what should change. That starts July 13, with a 5:30 p.m. meeting at Longwood University in Farmville.

Lily Jones, DLS Legislative Reference Center director, said meetings will continue over the summer and into the early fall. Some of the meetings will take place in person, while others will happen virtually.

On July 20, the second public hearing will commence at Hampton University at 2 p.m. 

A third hearing will take place on July 27 at George Mason University’s Fairfax campus at 4 p.m.

On August 3 at 6 p.m. the commission will host an in-person hearing in Richmond. Organizers have not finalized a location for the hearing, but mentioned the Pocahontas Building and the Capital Building as contenders. 

But What About Virtual Options?

Virtual meetings meanwhile will take place on Thursdays.

The first will take place July 15 at 2 p.m. with a focus on the West Central region. On July 22 at 10 a.m., the meeting will focus on the Eastern region. At 4 p.m. on July 29, the meeting will focus on the Southwest region. The final virtual hearing will take place at 6 p.m. on August 5, focusing on the Valley region. 

The commission scheduled early fall virtual meetings for September 21 at 10 a.m., focusing on the Southside region, and September 22 at 6 p.m, focusing on the Hampton Roads region. A third virtual meeting will occur on September 23 at 2 p.m., focusing on the Northern region. Lastly, a virtual public hearing will take place on September 25 at 4 p.m., focusing on the Central region. 

No Public for Public Comment

Now that the gatherings take place in person, those who wish to make a public comment during the Virginia Redistricting Commission’s regularly scheduled meetings must physically appear before the body.

At Tuesday’s meeting, no members of the public spoke. Expressing concern that individuals lost their way or didn’t arrive on time, Wade stepped out of the meeting to search the halls. He found no participants.

Harris reminded the public that comments now happen in person.

“For those individuals, citizens of the commonwealth that are listening in, we encourage you to come to Richmond and share your thoughts on the body of work that we’ll be doing together,” Harris said. 

The next meeting will take place on July 19 at 10 a.m.  

“And again, we encourage citizens to come and share your thoughts and ideas with the commission,” Harris said.

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. You can reach her at amie@couriernewsroom.com