WASHINGTON — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam says Democrats in the state are preparing a revised map of Virginia house districts that were the subject of a lawsuit over gerrymandering — and the redrawn map will be ready to go on the first day of a special session of the General Assembly Northam has called to deal with the issue.
A federal court in June ruled that 11 House of Delegate districts had been unconstitutionally redrawn during the 2011 redistricting process, packing African-American voters into certain districts, which effectively diluted their voting power in other districts.
The court order set an Oct. 30 deadline for the General Assembly to redraw the district lines.
Northam called the special session for Aug. 30, and he told WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program Aug. 22, the Democrats will be ready to put their proposal on the table on day one to negotiate.
“And I would hope that the Republicans either sign on to that map or put their own map on the table so that we can work together and move forward in a bipartisan way.”
Virginia House Republicans have appealed the court order and sought a delay to the October deadline as they challenge the ruling.
Northam seemed to dismiss calls for an independent commission or citizen-led panel because of the upcoming 2019 elections.
“We have to put maps on the table and the Democrats will certainly do that, and I hope that the Republicans will as well,” he said. “We have elections in 2019 and these maps need to be constitutional and that’s what I’m working toward.”
Charlottesville anniversary rally:
Regarding last week’s white nationalist rally in D.C., which marked one year since a similar rally turned deadly in Charlottesville, Northam said state agencies are still tallying up the total costs but he said he’s proud of the way police and state agencies responded.
The “Unite the Right 2” Rally was held at a park across from the White House in D.C., but rallygoers gathered in Northern Virginia beforehand. The D.C. Mayor’s office released preliminary figures showing the rally cost the city $2.6 million — most of that for police and security.
“I assured Virginians that we did not condone this type of behavior in Virginia, that we would not let it happen again, and we certainly had a presence both in Charlottesville and Northern Virginia, and I am very proud,” Northam said.
A few days before the anniversary of the 2017 rally, Northam declared a state of emergency in the state, which allowed state agencies to better coordinate resources.
“Our Department of Emergency Management, our state police worked very hard,” Northam said. “We had our National Guard on standby, so I think we gave Virginia the protection they needed and we also sent a message to these people that they’re not welcome in Virginia. So we were pleased with the outcome and that everybody was safe.”
Fight over pipeline continues
Northam also addressed recent developments regarding the construction of two natural-gas pipelines planned to crisscross through Virginia, which have drawn concern from environmental groups.
On Wednesday, authorities from the State Water Quality Control Board decided not to revoke water-quality permits for the two projects but pushed the state Department of Environmental Qualty to step up its enforcement. That action followed reports of mud and sediment from pipeline construction washing out private residence and clogging streams and rivers.
Meanwhile, there are also court-ordered work stoppages holding up some parts of construction of both projects.
“I have tried and I will do it today as well and ensure Virginians that these pipelines will not move forward unless they’re done environmentally safe and unless they’re done abiding by the law,” Northam said.
Regarding one of the pipelines — the Atlantic Coast pipeline, which is being developed by Dominion Energy — Northam said his administration is conducting a “stream-by-stream analysis, looking at erosion and sediment.” He called the review “the most rigorous oversight that has ever been done in a Virginia project.”