The clock is ticking for the Virginia Redistricting Commission, as it works to re-draw election district maps. Racial representation remains a leading obstacle according to Virginia Tech political expert Nicholas Goedert.

“The biggest remaining issue will be the philosophy behind the drawing of districts to facilitate the representation of racial minorities, especially Black voters in central and southeast Virginia,” said Goedert, an authority on the topic of gerrymandering, redistricting and the impact on elections.   

“The initial maps from the Republican consultants tend to pack Black voters in a smaller number of districts, while Democrats on the commission would like to create more new opportunities for Black representation by spreading Black voters across more districts.”

The state’s first bipartisan, citizen-led redistricting commission has an October 10 deadline to submit its’ recommendations to the General Assembly.  Failure to reach an agreement would send the matter to the Virginia Supreme Court.

“The changes that will need to be made by the commission to merge the maps are likely to be more micro- than macro-level decisions, and these sorts of decisions may be more amenable to compromise even in a highly partisan environment,” said Goedert.

Congressional maps are due from the commission just two weeks after the state legislative maps.

“We still have basically no idea what these might look like.  Even if the commission is successful in passing state legislative maps, the congressional maps are likely to garner more national attention and will be an even trickier test of the new commission system,” he said.

Nicholas Goedert is an assistant professor of political science, working on a broad research agenda related to legislative elections and American politics.  His research has been published in journals including the American Journal of Political Science, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Election Law Journal, and Research and Politics.   A new book, on the interaction of gerrymanders and electoral conditions or partisan tides titled “Ground War: Courts, Commissions, and the Fight over Partisan Gerrymanders” will be published by Oxford University Press this coming February.  He served as an expert witness in the Wisconsin redistricting case Whitford v. Gill (adjudicated by the U.S. Supreme Court during summer 2018), and has also served as a consultant for the advocacy group FairVote and the Pennsylvania state legislature on election structure issues.  He holds a Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. 

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To schedule an interview with Nick Goedert, contact Bill Foy by email, or by phone at 540-998-0288.

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