The final order was issued late Tuesday by the Virginia Supreme Court establishing new boundaries for all the state delegate and senate and U.S. congressional districts, and the City of Falls Church’s position was modified from the most recent draft. The final version keeps U.S. Rep. Don Beyer as Falls Church’s representative in the U.S. Congress and Del. Marcus Simon as its representative in the House of Delegates.
But it is drawn out of the State Senate district currently held by Sen. Dick Saslaw and into one that is currently occupied by two sitting State Senators, Sen. Dave Marden of Burke and Sen. Chap Peterson of the City of Fairfax.
In late revisions made in recent days, Falls Church City was moved out from an earlier draft that placed it in districts otherwise dominated by Arlington. Instead, in the case of the House of Delegates, it will remain the center of a “greater Falls Church” territory of eastern Fairfax County that is currently represented by incumbent Del. Marcus Simon. While that will leave Simon in command of his Falls Church-centric district, it is not known who will lead the 37th Senate district, whether Marsden and Peterson will go head to head in a fight over it.
The latest Supreme Court-approved district maps grew out of a tortured redistricting process that had been approved by the Virginia legislature in an attempt to end partisan-led gerrymandering with a bipartisan committee approach. A Virginia Redistricting Commission was formed to submit a plan but it failed to reach a consensus, kicking the process to the Supreme Court.
As the commission wound up in a gridlock this fall, the result, as written into the law, became a reversion to the state Supreme Court, a body of seven appointed by the legislature with a majority appointed by Republicans. The Supreme Court appointed ostensibly non-partisan specialists, called “Special Masters,” to craft the new districts in a process that included ample opportunity for public input.
In a statement by the Supreme Court, signed by Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons and reflecting a unanimous vote of that court, it was noted that the final redistricting maps “followed the Court’s instructions and have fully complied with federal and state law, encompassing the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
The final redistricting maps prepared by the Special Masters “are fully compliant with constitutional and statutory law applied, as the Court directed, in an apolitical and non-partisan manner,” according to the Lemons letter, and have been “thereby designated as Supreme Court of Virginia Final Order and Approved Maps adopted and effective immediately.”