Editors’ Note: We reprint here excerpts from an important letter from OneVirginia2021, which has been working tirelessly for redistricting reform in the Commonwealth. It contains crucial information and links to associated events.
Saturday, February 23rd, the Virginia General Assembly passed the most comprehensive redistricting reform to ever pass a state legislature. This proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution calls for a bipartisan hybrid commission of citizens (8) and legislators (8), adding citizens to the redistricting process for the first time. Supermajorities from each group are required to pass any maps, and it includes transparency requirements to ensure that each part of the process is open to the public. This amendment promises to significantly curb the gerrymandering that’s become a hallmark of our Commonwealth.
Here are key elements in the reform passed by the House of Delegates and the Senate:
- Establishes a Redistricting Commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen serving as chair
- Requires full transparency of all meetings, minutes and data
- Includes specific protections for minority communities
- Includes impartial review in the selection of citizen members of the commission
- Excludes unelected congressional or General Assembly employees from the commission
- Guards against partisan gerrymandering by requiring a supermajority of commissioners for approval of district maps
- Provides the General Assembly only up-or-down votes on the commission’s maps, without amendments
- Excludes the Governor from the approval process, which would throw off the balance created by the above framework
We put out a press release that day with the details and some statements on it. You can read the actual resolution language here.
We have also made a one page infographic for you that explains the intricacies of the resolution. You can download the PDF here.
Nothing 100% pure ever gets through a legislative body. We don’t have a magic wand and we had to work with legislators from both sides of the aisle to find a solution we could all agree on. We made compromises along the way, but we did not compromise our principles. Plus, we will have the opportunity to improve the redistricting commission with enabling legislation we can pass in the 2020 session. For perspective, I’ve found it helpful to talk to the father of Virginia’s constitution, Professor A.E. Dick Howard. He wrote an opinion piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that might provide you with insight from his historical vantage point.
Virginia is what’s next. Nationally speaking, that is.
Along with some friends from VA, I went to the Unrig Summit in Nashville where they recognized the five states that passed redistricting reform in 2018, and they’re all excited about our fight in the coming year. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said the same in February – Virginia is next. No pressure…but the nation is watching us!
One of the things we need to double down on is speaking engagements – we need to get the word out to all sorts of audiences about what happened and what 2020 holds. To invite OneVirginia2021 to speak to your group, email email@example.com.
But the most important moment we have coming up this spring/summer is…
Presence @ the Polls: June 11 is Primary Day in many parts of the Commonwealth,
Of course there are lawsuits at the Supreme Court of the United States. Politicians got greedy in both North Carolina and Maryland, and there’s interesting litigation from both sides of the aisle. It’s possible that Justice Kennedy’s former law clerk, who now holds his seat on the Court, might be the deciding vote in these cases. Those robes are not superhero capes, but I remain optimistic. Watch for a ruling in June.
Virginia’s racial gerrymandering case is also before the Court. Many voters, from Richmond to Hampton Roads, now have adjusted House of Delegates districts (elections are this year!) that are awaiting a final decision from SCOTUS. To see an interactive map from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, click here. Insiders mostly agree on the prognosis that SCOTUS won’t overturn the new districts, but we won’t know until the opinion comes out in a few weeks to a month or so.
PO Box 1054
Richmond, VA 23218
OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting is a group of dedicated people from across the political spectrum who believe congressional and state legislative districts belong to Virginians, and not to any legislator, special interest, or political party. We advocate for a fair process, not a particular political outcome.