VA Dems Can Win an Easy Doubleheader

Editors’ Note: Readers should visit www.nationalpopularvote.com for more information on this project. The site offers an opportunity to email your representative to join NPVI.

The U.S. Electoral College: a brief history – Gregory Bufithis

The Commonwealth often regales itself as a fount of democratic progress and, true, it sometimes breaks ground in that universe. It likely seems ages ago that the General Assembly voted (January 15, 2020) to be the 38th and deciding state for ratification of the Equal Right Amendment. In 2017, the National Archivist certified the 27th Amendment to the Constitution first proposed in 1789, 228 years previous. The ERA amendment has not been certified by the National Archivist as three states, including Virginia, have brought suit in federal court for a writ of mandamus to order the certification. The Department of Justice represents the defendant.

The outcome of the ERA is likely to require an extended legal wrangle to determine its fate. Nonetheless, Virginia can be proud of its leading role.,

With the passage of a state constitutional amendment to create an independent commission to draw the Commonwealth’s political electoral boundaries, Virginia has joined a small group of the 50 states determined to provide their electorates with the right to choose elected officials instead of the reverse. Passage of the amendment morphed into a conflicted battle, especially for Democrats, who displayed something of a split personality over the proposal and its merits.

A longstanding commitment and promise by Democrats was made, with now many elected to a majority of the legislature in the Blue Wave of 2018, to eliminate gerrymandering in the Commonwealth. Yet an impassioned group, many self-proclaimed progressives, mounted a last- minute campaign to oppose the independent commission referendum on the November 3 ballot.

A longstanding commitment and promise by Democrats was made, with now many elected to a majority of the legislature in the Blue Wave of 2018, to eliminate gerrymandering in the Commonwealth. Yet an impassioned group, many self-proclaimed progressives, mounted a last- minute campaign to oppose the independent commission referendum on the November 3 ballot.

Initially, Democratic legislators favored the commission, but, subsequently, turned 180 degrees in the 2019 General Assembly session to torpedo its passage in a popular referendum. Flaws in the legislation were alleged, some largely theoretical, while others had the flavor of conspiracy theory. The most salacious element of the criticism involved promoting the notion that the participation of the Virginia Supreme Court was deliverance of the control of redistricting to that body, one that could not be entrusted with that responsibility because of its partisan membership. Ouch! That’s not a politic strategy even if the referendum were defeated.

The voting data for Virginia in the 2020 election offers some sobering instruction to the state’s Democrats. Sixty-six percent (2,317,378) voted in favor of the amendment. Joe Biden garnered 2,379,830 votes in his bid for the presidency. The Democratic junta opposed to the referendum argued that Republicans were in favor of the proposal and, for that reason, Democrats should oppose it. The 2020 data simply do not bear out that allegation.  

As it turned out, the 34% (1,425,726) ‘No’ votes on the referendum was one-half million fewer than the votes cast for Donald Trump (1,953,834). By any account, the Democratic opposition to the independent commission was a huge error in political calculus, if not simply embarrassing. Anti-referendum Democrats were cautioned by many constituents not to engage actively in opposition to the idea. Better, they advised, to use the Democratic majority to author a new amendment in the 2021 session of the General Assembly to correct the alleged fatal flaws in the amendment.

For many years, the legislature has delayed acting on a proposal that the Old Dominion participate in the National Popular Vote Initiative (NPVI), or interstate compact. NPVI would moot the distortion of the Electoral College upon presidential elections. That distortion is functionally a national gerrymander, whereby less populous states have outsized weight in the selection of president and vice president.

The Democratic majority in the General Assembly has an opportunity to redeem itself from its losing campaign to destroy the state redistricting commission. For many years, the legislature has delayed acting on a proposal that the Old Dominion participate in the National Popular Vote Initiative (NPVI), or interstate compact. NPVI would moot the distortion of the Electoral College upon presidential elections. That distortion is functionally a national gerrymander, whereby less populous states have outsized weight in the selection of president and vice president.

Democrats continue their majority in the General Assembly and could easily approve NPVI. Taking that step reaffirms opposition to gerrymandering on the national level. The appetite of Virginia’s electorate for elimination of gerrymandering has been demonstrated, a message of desire for increasing democratic participation. This observation is supported by the electorate’s response to early and mail balloting in 2020.

Through July 2020, NPVI has been approved by 16 states and DC, representing 196 electoral votes; this means that 74 additional electoral votes are required to reach 270. Virginia could add its 13 to the total, providing encouragement to other jurisdictions. The presidential elections of 2000, 2016, and even 2020 have created a very clear picture of the actual and potential distortion of the popular vote by the Electoral College system. It’s an anachronism that jeopardizes the nation’s democratic progress and, at the same time, diminishes one person, one vote.

Virginia can become the 17th state to join this effort at enhancing voting equity and democracy. The state’s Democratic leadership can move the ball on NPVI to demonstrate its appreciation of all Virginians, whether Democrats or Republicans. A vote to join NPVI signals the party’s long-standing commitment to eliminating gerrymandering as well as supporting a more perfect union. At the same time, VA DEMS can author a new independent commission amendment to correct the flaws of the adopted one to which they were so ardently opposed.

Seems like a win-win doubleheader for the majority party and an honorable use of that majority as well as reaffirming the Commonwealth’s premier advocacy of democracy in the United States.

 

 

 

 



Categories: CIVIL RIGHTS, Issues, Local, National, politics, State

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