RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – The Virginia Supreme Court has selected two outside experts from a pool of candidates proposed by lawmakers to help it accomplish its task of drawing new legislative districts to comply with the 2020 census.
The court unanimously appointed Sean Trende and Bernard Grofman to serve as special masters for the preparation of the proposed redistribution plans, according to an order issued Friday.
Trende, election analyst at RealClearPolitics, was nominated by Republicans. He also holds a law degree, has provided expert testimony in election prosecutions across the country, and has been appointed as a voting rights expert by the Arizona Redistribution Commission, according to his curriculum. vitae. Grofman, nominated by the Democrats, is professor of political science and economics at the University of California at Irvine. He has a degree in mathematics and a doctorate. in political science and previously worked on map-drawing efforts in Virginia.
The two will have no more than 30 days to work together to create a single set of cards for the House of Delegates, Virginia Senate, and United States House districts in Virginia. The court will then examine these cards.
The court took on the task of redistribution under a new law approved by voters in a 2020 referendum.
The law created a bipartisan redistribution commission that was supposed to submit new maps to the state legislature for approval. But the committee failed to approve a single one, with Democrats and Republicans on the committee equally divided over nearly every proposal that came before them.
The role of the court in the process is now closely watched. Democrats who opposed the 2020 referendum had argued that the court leaned in favor of Republicans and that the cards would reflect GOP bias.
The court said in its order on Friday that any dispute between Trende and Grofman must be resolved through “good faith efforts” to find a compromise.
“Although each has been appointed by the legislative leaders of a particular political party, the candidates – once appointed by this Court as special masters – will serve as officers of the Court in a quasi-judicial capacity. Therefore, the Special Masters will be neutral and will not act as lawyers or representatives of a political party, ”said the order.
They are prohibited from consulting political parties, partisan organizations or outside experts.
The order said Trende and Grofman could accept their appointments by signing an agreement with the court. It was not immediately clear whether either had taken this step. A court spokeswoman did not respond to a survey seeking comment.
Their selection was delayed by criticism from Republicans and Democrats of the other party’s candidates. Last week, the court asked Republicans to submit three new candidates following complaints from Democrats that the first batch was too partisan. The court also rejected one of the three candidates proposed by the Democrats.
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