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035030577
SENATE BILL NO. 872
Offered January 8, 2003
Prefiled January 7, 2003
A BILL to amend the Code of Virginia by adding in Chapter 3 of Title 24.2 an article numbered 1.1, consisting of sections numbered 24.2-301.2 through 24.2-301.7, relating to establishment of the Virginia Redistricting Commission; preparation of and standards for state legislative and congressional redistricting plans.
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Patrons-- Deeds; Delegate: Jones, D.C.
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Referred to Committee on Privileges and Elections
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Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia:

1. That the Code of Virginia is amended by adding in Chapter 3 of Title 24.2 an article numbered 1.1, consisting of sections numbered 24.2-301.2 through 24.2-301.7 as follows:

Article 1.1.

General Assembly and Congressional Redistricting Plans.

24.2-301.2. Definitions.

As used in this article, unless the context requires otherwise:

“Appointing authorities” means the 4 members of the Senate and House of Delegates designated 1 each by each Senate caucus and each House caucus of the 2 political parties having the most members in the Senate and House, respectively.

"Chief election officer" means the Secretary of the State Board of Elections.

"Commission" means the Virginia Redistricting Commission established pursuant to this article.

"Division" means the Division of Legislative Services.

"Federal census" means the decennial census required by federal law to be conducted by the United States Bureau of the Census in every year ending in zero.

"Partisan public office" means: (i) an elective or appointive office in the executive or legislative branch or in an independent establishment of the federal government; (ii) an elective office in the executive or legislative branch of the government of the Commonwealth, or an office that is filled by appointment and is exempt from the Virginia Personnel Act under 2.2-2905, subdivision 20; or (iii) an office of a county, city, or other political subdivision of the Commonwealth that is filled by an election process involving nomination and election of candidates on a partisan basis.

"Plan" means a plan for legislative and congressional redistricting drawn up pursuant to the requirements of this article.

"Political party office" means an elective office in the national or state organization of a political party, as defined by 24.2-101.

"Relative" means an individual who is related to the person in question as father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, nephew, niece, husband, wife, grandfather, grandmother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, stepfather, stepmother, stepson, stepdaughter, stepbrother, stepsister, half brother or half sister.

24.2-301.3. Virginia Redistricting Commission.

A. Not later than January 1 of each year ending in 1, a 5-member Virginia Redistricting Commission shall be established as provided by this section.

1. Not later than November 1 of each year ending in zero, each of the 4 appointing authorities shall certify to the chief election officer the authority's appointment of a person to serve on the Commission.

2. Within 20 days after the 4 appointing authorities have certified their respective appointments to the Commission, but in no event later than December 1 of the year ending in zero, the 4 Commission members so appointed shall select, by a vote of at least 3 members, and certify to the chief election officer the fifth Commission member, who shall serve as chairperson.

3. A vacancy on the Commission shall be filled by the initial appointing authority within 10 days after the vacancy occurs.

4. Members of the Commission shall receive compensation as provided in 30-19.12 and shall be reimbursed for all reasonable and necessary expenses incurred in the discharge of their duties as provided in 2.2-2825.

B. No person shall be appointed to the Commission who:

1. Is not a qualified voter of the Commonwealth at the time of selection.

2. Holds partisan public office or political party office.

3. Is a relative of or is employed by a member of the General Assembly or of the United States Congress, or is employed directly by the General Assembly or by the United States Congress.

C. Three members shall constitute a quorum for the Commission.

D. The Commission shall meet on the call of the chairman or a majority of its members.

24.2-301.4. Duties of the Commission.

The duties of the Commission shall be as follows:

1. Oversee preparations for redistricting undertaken by the Division pursuant to 24.2-301.5.

2. Prepare plans, and a bill embodying each plan, for delivery by the Division to the Clerks of the Senate and House in accordance with 24.2-301.6 and 24.2-301.7. The Division shall provide to persons outside the Division staff only such information regarding any plan as may be required by policies agreed upon by the Commission. This subdivision does not apply to population data furnished to the Division by the United States Bureau of the Census.

3. Upon each delivery by the Division to the General Assembly of a bill embodying a plan, the Commission shall at the earliest feasible time make available to the public the following information:

a. Copies of the bill delivered by the Division to the General Assembly.

b. Maps illustrating the plan.

c. A summary of the standards prescribed by 24.2-301.7 for development of the plan.

d. A statement of the population of each district included in the plan, and the relative deviation of each district population from the ideal district population.

4. Upon the delivery by the Division to the General Assembly of a bill embodying an initial plan, as required by subsection A of 24.2-301.6, the Commission shall:

a. As expeditiously as reasonably possible, schedule and conduct at least 3 public hearings, in different geographic regions of the Commonwealth, on the plan embodied in the bill delivered to the General Assembly.

b Following the hearings, promptly prepare and submit to the Clerks of the Senate and House a report summarizing information and testimony received by the Commission in the course of the hearings. The Commission's report shall include any comments and conclusions that its members deem appropriate on the information and testimony received at the hearings, or otherwise presented to the Commission.

24.2-301.5. Preparations for redistricting.

A. The Division shall acquire appropriate information, review and evaluate available facilities, and develop programs and procedures in preparation for drawing legislative and congressional redistricting plans on the basis of each federal census. Funds shall be expended for the purchase or lease of equipment and materials only with prior approval of the Joint Reapportionment Committee until the establishment of the Commission and thereafter only with the Commission's prior approval.

B. By January 1 of each year ending in 1, the Division shall obtain from the United States Bureau of the Census information regarding geographic and political units in this Commonwealth for which federal census population data has been gathered and will be tabulated. The Division shall use the data so obtained to:

1. Prepare necessary descriptions of geographic and political units for which census data will be reported, and which are suitable for use as components of legislative and congressional districts.

2. Prepare maps of counties, cities and other geographic units within the Commonwealth, which may be used to illustrate the locations of district boundaries proposed in plans drawn in accordance with 24.2-301.7.

3. As soon as possible after January 1 of each year ending in 1, the Division shall obtain from the United States Bureau of the Census the population data needed for legislative and congressional redistricting, which the Bureau is required to provide the Commonwealth under United States Pub. L. 94-171, and shall use that data to assign a population figure based upon certified federal census data to each geographic or political unit described pursuant to subdivision 1 of subsection B. Upon completion of that task by the Division, the Commission shall begin the preparation of legislative and congressional redistricting plans as required by 24.2-301.6.

24.2-301.6. Timetable for preparation of plan.

A. Not later than April 1 of each year ending in 1, the Commission shall deliver to the Clerks of the Senate and House of Delegates identical bills embodying a plan of legislative and congressional redistricting prepared in accordance with 24.2-301.7. It is the intent of this article that the General Assembly shall bring the bill to a vote in either the Senate or the House of Delegates expeditiously, but not less than 7 days after the report of the Commission required by 24.2-301.4 is received and made available to the members of the General Assembly, under a procedure or rule permitting no amendments except those of a purely corrective nature. It is further the intent of this article that if the bill is approved by the first house in which it is considered, it shall expeditiously be brought to a vote in the second house under a similar procedure or rule.

B. If the bill embodying the plan submitted by the Commission under subsection A fails to be approved by a constitutional majority in either the Senate or the House of Delegates, the Clerk of the Senate or House, as the case may be, shall at once transmit to the Commission information that the Senate or House may direct regarding reasons why the plan was not approved. The Commission shall prepare a bill embodying a second plan of legislative and congressional redistricting prepared in accordance with 24.2-301.7, and taking into account the reasons cited by the Senate or House for its failure to approve the plan insofar as it is possible to do so within the requirements of 24.2-301.7. If a second plan is required under this subsection, the bill embodying it shall be delivered to the Clerks of the Senate and House not later than May 1 of the year ending in 1, or 14 days after the date of the vote by which the Senate or the House fails to approve the bill submitted under subsection A, whichever date is later. It is the intent of this article that, if it is necessary to submit a bill under this subsection, the bill be brought to a vote not less than 7 days after the bill is printed and made available to the members of the General Assembly, in the same manner as prescribed for the bill required under subsection A.

C. If the bill embodying the plan submitted by the Commission under subsection B fails to be approved by a constitutional majority in either the Senate or the House, the same procedure as prescribed by subsection B shall be followed. If a third plan is required under this subsection, the bill embodying it shall be delivered to the Clerks of the Senate and House not later than June 1 of the year ending in 1, or 14 days after the date of the vote by which the Senate or House fails to approve the bill submitted under subsection B, whichever date is later. It is the intent of this article that, if it is necessary to submit a bill under this subsection, the bill shall be brought to a vote within the same time period after its delivery to the Clerks of the Senate and House as is prescribed for the bill submitted under subsection B, but the bill shall be subject to amendment in the same manner as other bills.

D. Notwithstanding subsections A, B, and C of this section:

1. The Commission may determine that the time constraints for preparing a legislative redistricting plan prior to the November general election of the year ending in 1 warrant the preparation of separate legislative and congressional redistricting plans. In such case, it shall inform the presiding officers of the Senate and House. If the presiding officers so direct, the Commission shall prepare a separate bill establishing legislative districts and submit it separately from the bill establishing congressional districts. It is the intent of this article that the General Assembly shall proceed to consider the legislative redistricting bill in substantially the manner prescribed by subsections A, B, and C of this section.

2. If the population data for legislative redistricting that the United States Bureau of the Census is required to provide this Commonwealth under United States Pub. L. 94-171 and, if used by the Division, the corresponding topologically integrated geographic encoding and referencing data file for that population data, are not available to the Division on or before February 1 of the year ending in 1, the dates set forth in this section shall be extended by a number of days equal to the number of days after February 1 of the year ending in 1 that the federal census population data and the topologically integrated geographic encoding and referencing data file for legislative redistricting become available.

24.2-301.7. Redistricting standards.

A. Legislative and congressional districts shall be established on the basis of population.

1. Senatorial and delegate districts, respectively, shall each have a population as nearly equal as practicable to the ideal population for such districts, determined by dividing the number of districts to be established into the population of the Commonwealth reported in the federal decennial census. Senatorial districts and delegate districts shall not vary in population from the respective ideal district populations except as necessary to comply with one of the other standards enumerated in this section. In no case shall the quotient, obtained by dividing the total of the absolute values of the deviations of all district populations from the applicable ideal district population by the number of districts established, exceed 1 percent of the applicable ideal district population. No senatorial district shall have a population that exceeds that of any other senatorial district by more than 5 percent, and no delegate district shall have a population that exceeds that of any other delegate district by more than 5 percent.

2. Congressional districts shall each have a population as nearly equal as practicable to the ideal district population, derived as prescribed in subdivision 1 of this subsection. No congressional district shall have a population that varies by more than 1 percent from the applicable ideal district population, except as necessary to comply with Article II, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia.

3. If a challenge is filed alleging excessive population variance among districts established in a plan adopted by the General Assembly, the General Assembly has the burden of justifying any variance in excess of 1 percent between the population of a district and the applicable ideal district population.

B. To the extent consistent with subsection A, legislative and congressional plans shall comply with federal constitutional requirements and the federal Voting Rights Act.

C. Districts shall be composed of compact and contiguous territory in compliance with the requirements of Article II, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia. Areas that meet only at the points of adjoining corners are not contiguous.

D. To the extent consistent with subsections A, B, and C, district boundaries shall coincide with the boundaries of political subdivisions of the Commonwealth. The number of counties and cities divided among more than 1 district shall be as small as possible. When there is a choice between dividing local political subdivisions, the more populous subdivisions shall be divided before the less populous.

E. No district shall be drawn for the purpose of favoring a political party, incumbent legislator or member of Congress, or other person or group, or for the purpose of augmenting or diluting the voting strength of a language or racial minority group. In establishing districts, no use shall be made of any of the following data:

1. Addresses of incumbent legislators or members of Congress.

2. Political affiliations of registered voters.

3. Previous election results.

4. Demographic information, other than population head counts, except as required by the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

F. In order to minimize electoral confusion and to facilitate communication within state legislative districts, each plan drawn under this section shall provide, so far as possible, that each delegate district is wholly included within a single senatorial district and that each delegate and each senatorial district shall be included within a single congressional district. However, the standards established by subsections A through E shall take precedence where a conflict arises between these standards and the requirements of this subsection.

G. Each bill embodying a plan drawn under this section shall provide that any vacancy in the General Assembly or House of Representatives, occurring at a time that makes it necessary to fill the vacancy at a special election held pursuant to 24.2-209 or 24.2-216, shall be filled from the same district that elected the Senator, Delegate, or Representative whose seat is vacant.


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