A diverse group will help draw Virginia’s new political maps

A Virginia Beach Navy veteran is among the eight citizens who will join eight legislators on a bipartisan commission that will redraw Virginia’s legislative boundaries for the next decade.

Brandon Hutchins found out Wednesday as he watched a livestream from his new home in Virginia Beach.

The 39-year-old thinks his diverse background in the military, healthcare and owning a small business will help him in the new role.

“I think that I can help make sure that this process is done in an equitable fashion,” Hutchins said when reached Wednesday afternoon.

A referendum approved by voters in November creates the 16-member commission to draw lines for Virginia’s seats in Congress and the General Assembly.

The judges selected four names each from lists submitted by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders.

The panel of judges was tasked under the law with selecting members to reflect racial, ethnic, gender and geographical diversity.

The roughly 1,200 volunteers who put their names in to represent average Virginians on the panel were disproportionately white, rich, older and male in a state with many young, female Black and brown voters. Experts worried that would lead to a panel that doesn’t fully reflect the state.

[ Previous coverage: 8 ‘citizens’ will help draw Virginia’s new political map. But how many will be average people? ]

But only four of the eight chosen Wednesday are white. Six of the eight are men. The panel includes African American, Hispanic, Asian American and biracial members.

Hutchins, originally of Richmond, is the only Black man on the commission. He hopes he can provide a different perspective and “do the right thing” when it comes to drawing lines fairly.

“These lines were supposed to be drawn fairly,” he said. “That hasn’t been the case. We need to look at how all of those districts are drawn and make them as fair as possible as a group.”

Hutchins, who ran for a seat on Virginia Beach City Council this year, came out of the Navy after 11 years to work in healthcare. He’s currently a network support consultant for Anthem. He and his wife also own Salon Haven, a hair salon in Virginia Beach. He also sits on the board of the Virginia Beach Community Development Corporation.

The judges made sure to include representatives from Southside and far southwest Virginia — areas that may well lose representation because of population surges in northern Virginia — but no applicants from the Shenandoah Valley and Roanoke area were selected.

The Roanoke area will have representation on the panel from Lynchburg Republican Steve Newman, who is one of the eight legislators already appointed to the commission.

The other citizens chosen by the judges are Greta Harris of Richmond, Sean Kumar of Alexandria, Mackenzie Babichenko of Mechanicsville, Jose A. Feliciano Jr. of Fredericksburg, James Abrenio of Fairfax, Marvin Gilliam of Bristol and Richard Harrell of South Boston.

Read the Original Article Here: https://www.pilotonline.com/government/virginia/vp-nw-8-citizens-redistricting-20210106-jyslwf2fevclbdxvbyyrwlgcdu-story.html