By Peter Galuszka
Coup II seems well underway among Virginia’s Republican legislators.
According to The Washington Post, state-level Republicans in the Old Dominion and several other states including Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania are trying to redistrict voting more along the boundaries of federal congressional districts that typically are more heavily lopsided to one party or another. All of the states went for Barack Obama in 2012 but Republicans control state legislatures.
The Post reports that had Virginia had such a voting district system, along with a provision that would apportion electoral college votes along congressional district lines, then Obama would have won only four instead of all 13 of the state’s electoral votes.
Virginia’s Republicans are pushing for switching to a congressional district system as Nebraska and Maine have already done. A supporter, State Sen. Charles W. Carrico, a Republican from Grayson County, says that going with congressional district vote counting protects voters in less densely populated rural areas.
A few problems with that. First, it is a sneaky way to slow the impact of newcomers to Virginia as non-Virginians who tend to be more diverse in race and background move to the state. Their political concerns are not necessarily maintaining the status quo or keeping money flowing to rural areas that voters from rural areas worry about. In other words, it’s a backdoor scheme to slow the state’s inevitable change from red to purple to blue.
Another issue is why this is coming up now, other than the fact that Obama and Democrats trounced Republicans in November. A redistricting plan had been decided upon two years ago. Republicans like John Watkins and Tommy Norment won national derision this week for their covert and heavy-handed way of pushing redistricting plans through the evenly-divided Senate when civil rights leader Henry Marsh happened to be spending Martin Luther King Jr. Day attending Obama’s inauguration.
Their cheesy ploy made the Alpha Dog section of The Colbert Report.
There may be something far more serious afoot — or off the foot — if a shoe drops. One has to wonder if the Republican geniuses in the Virginia State Senate thought these ploys up all by themselves while Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell jumps for cover crying like Sgt. Schultz in TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes,” “I know nothing.”
Could that next shoe have something to do with the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council, the national network of conservatives funded by the Koch Brothers and various corporations to push self-serving laws nationwide via state legislatures?
ALEC are the people who brought you the “Stand Your Ground” firearm defense law that figured in a racial shooting in Florida last year. Public outcry shamed many big companies into pulling out from ALEC.
And guess what other state ALEC played a role in redistricting? The Badger State, which was been a hotbed last year for all kinds of right-wing flash points such as Voter ID laws and bashing public employee unions.
Reports from Wisconsin link ALEC to the ID laws and possibly as well to a controversial redistricting. What about the other states?
I personally have no direct evidence, at least yet, about ALEC and the current coups in Virginia State Capitol, but they may pop up. Plenty of Virginia legislators have past ties to ALEC, including House Speaker William J. Howell.
And what is McDonnell’s role in this, exactly? He seems being set up once again, just as he was last year with the transvaginal ultrasound business to blunt abortions. Now, instead of giving McDonnell some kind of legacy with his transportation plan, The Republican leaders seem to be following someone else’s script as part of a national coup to keep Democrats from pulling off a 2012-style victory again.
Why aren’t they being open and honest about it?