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Speakers urge redistricting commission to preserve communities of interest

Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 7:48 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Virginia’s new redistricting commission will receive census data next month. But before the panel redraws the state’s legislative districts, it is hearing from the public. On Thursday, citizens from central and western Virginia weighed in.

Most of the speakers were from the New River Valley and from the Lynchburg area. And the two groups had a common theme - preserve their communities of interest, and avoid splintering their communities among multiple districts.

Members of the redistricting commission have spent several weeks preparing for the task at hand, but soon they will get down to business.

They must consider a number of criteria as they redraw legislative districts for the General Assembly and Congress, including population, racial and ethnic fairness, and geography.

Most of the speakers during Thursday’s public hearing addressed another concern: preserving communities of interest.

Daniel Tuck is from Lynchburg, which is split between two House Districts.

“And I know it wouldn’t perfectly align,” Tuck told members of the commission. “There’s no way to align a district perfectly around city limits, but it would be less confusing to voters. It would be easier for one delegate to represent such an area.”

Residents of the New River Valley asked the commission to preserve the community of interest that includes Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Radford.

Peggy Layne lives in Blacksburg.

“Montgomery County is split across three House of Delegates districts and two State Senate districts,” Layne said during the hearing. “And the town of Blacksburg is also split across House Districts. In fact, the Virginia Tech campus is split between two House of Delegates districts.”

“I hope this redistricting commission will remedy a longstanding wrong,” added Matthew Gabriele, another resident of the New River Valley, “the way that southwestern virginia has been treated in which it has been carved up very unnaturally to the detriment of our citizens.”

More public hearings are scheduled before the commission receives census data next month, and again in September after the first maps are drawn.

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