RICHMOND — Gov. Ralph Northam has called the General Assembly back to Richmond for an Aug. 30 special session to redraw House of Delegates districts to comply with a federal court order on racial gerrymandering.
Northam signed a proclamation Monday to call the special session, setting his own timetable as Republican leaders prepare their response to the court order.
“It is in the public interest for the General Assembly to finalize constitutional maps as soon as possible — Virginians deserve that clarity,” Northam said in a news release. “I am calling a special session so we can focus our collective attention on doing what’s right: working together to draw lines that represent Virginians fairly.”
In its June ruling, the federal judicial panel gave GOP House leaders until Oct. 30 to redraw the legislative map to correct 11 House districts. The judges found that lawmakers unconstitutionally packed African-American voters into majority-minority districts, diluting black voting power in neighboring districts that lean Republican.
House Republicans are appealing the ruling, but they have given little indication of whether they plan to take action before the October deadline. The court has given Republicans until Aug. 24 to say whether they plan to comply with the order.
In a statement, House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said Republicans will convene on Aug. 30 as “constitutionally required,” but will continue to push for the October deadline to be pushed back during their legal appeal.
Cox also indicated that Republicans would wait for Northam and House Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, to put forward an initial redistricting plan.
“Drawing a map that can withstand legal scrutiny is neither a quick nor simple process,” Cox said. “The General Assembly must establish criteria, hold committee meetings and gather public input from across the commonwealth.”