Category Archives: Electoral process

End the Johnnymander!

The original gerrymander

by Scott Dreyer

In March 1812, the Boston Gazette ran a cartoon showing “a new species of monster” — ”the Gerry-mander.” It made fun of a contorted voting district that the Jeffersonian Republicans had drawn up to benefit its candidates. Governor Elbridge Gerry signed off on it, and with the cartoon’s publication, a new word entered the English language. “Gerrymandering” is the process whereby politicians can influence elections based on who is voting in that district.

The Johnnymander: Virginia senate district 21

Every ten years after our nation’s new census, those in power scramble to draw new political boundaries. Because of the “one man-one vote” principle, each district should have roughly the same population as all the others. However, these districts are not to be drawn too willy-nilly. Each district is supposed to combine “communities of interest.” In other words, each district should contain people who have much in common geographically, culturally, and economically. Also, the districts are supposed to be compact and contiguous. That is, the regions are to be as small and close together as reasonably possible.

This brings us to Southwest Virginia now. Continue reading

Finally, There Are Redistricting Maps Up for Final Consideration

Congressional district map proposed by Va. Supreme Court special masters (The bubbles represent comments made by members of the public on Supreme Court interactive map)

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The two special masters appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to assist in redistricting have accomplished in about a month what the Virginia Redistricting Commission (“the Commission”) was unable to do in about nine months:  produce single draft maps for the Congressional districts, the Senate districts, and the House of Delegates districts.

The draft maps and a long memo from the special masters explaining the process they used and the reasons for their recommendations can be found here.

An objective examination of the maps will lead to the conclusion that they are significantly more logical and sensible than the current maps or ones considered by the Commission.  The districts are compact to the extent practicable and follow lines that make sense from a communities-of-interest perspective. There are no odd-shaped districts that really stand out. Any bulges or sudden incursions into adjoining districts are the result of the population equality requirement. Splitting of counties and cities is kept to a minimum. Continue reading

Election Integrity? Not a Problem Now. We Won.

Photo credit: ABC News

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Now that the election is over, it is a good time to look at the integrity of the results.

Over the last two years, Democratic majorities in the General Assembly eased voter ID requirements, established the longest early election period in the country, and instituted “no excuse” absentee voting.

Republicans were alarmed. Donald Trump declared, “I am not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections, lots of bad things went on, and are going on.”  State Senator Amanda Chase charged, “I know how Democrats are cheating, and that info has been given to the Youngkin campaign.” Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, as late as a month before the election, called for an audit of voting machines. Continue reading

Donald Trump, Please Butt Out

by James A. Bacon

Donald Trump inserted himself into the gubernatorial election today by repeating his endorsement of Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin. Nothing wrong with that. He can endorse whomever he likes. But I draw the line at this: “I am not a believer in the integrity of Virginia’s elections, lots of bad things went on, and are going on. The way you beat it is to flood the system and get out and vote.”

What factual basis does Trump have for distrusting the integrity of Virginia’s elections? What “bad things” went on? What “bad things” are still going on? He didn’t say.

While disputing 2020 election results in a dozen or more other states, Trump leveled no substantive charges against Virginia’s electoral system. I suppose he was referring today to a lawsuit charging that Fairfax County election officials with instituting a last-minute change in election procedures: Absentee voters no longer have to provide the last four digits of their social security numbers. Continue reading

Stop the Sign Thefts!

by Susan Lang

Shelly Fularon Wood is running for Commonwealth Attorney in Chesapeake. She has handled more than 2,700 criminal cases in Virginia. She has experience working in the Norfolk Prosecutor’s office and was appointed by Chesapeake Circuit Court Judges to serve as a Substitute Judge. Despite these tremendous credentials, or maybe because of them, someone has been removing her campaign signs.

Wood has a system for recording where and when her signs are placed. She has determined that more than 200 have been stolen — so far.

A Facebook post claiming to be part of the City Sign Sweeper program shows what happened to many of the stolen Shelly Wood signs. The Sign Sweeper program does not cover removal of political signs. It is furthermore an incorrect application of the program to take signs of one candidate for an office but not the other’s signs. This individual was contacted; he said the signs had been destroyed. Continue reading

Dominion and Despicable Voter Suppression

So it was Dominion Energy paying for campaign ads opposing gun regulation! Here is why.

by Steve Haner

Dominion Energy Virginia’s knowing participation in an effort to suppress the November 2 vote, aimed mainly at Western Virginia Republicans, is a truly despicable act. It should enrage all Virginians, without regard to party. This is a state-created and regulated monopoly and the $200,000 it spent on this underhanded activity was provided by captive customers.

I further assert that in previous election cycles, as heavily as Dominion funded various candidates, this type of expense would not have been approved by the management, including the late Thomas Farrell. But Farrell is dead and the political deciders at the top now are both long-time partisan Democrats who fully understood they were paying for voter suppression.

I would be expressing no anger whatsoever if Dominion had merely donated $200,000 directly and openly to Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. It would have been a logical move to support a former governor who strongly backed its failed natural gas pipeline project, and now has pledged to deeply enrich the company by accelerating the transition to unreliable renewable generation instead.

McAuliffe is nothing if not flexible. I used another word to describe his subservience to Dominion on Twitter yesterday and got blocked for 12 hours. Continue reading

Redistricting: Incumbents, Open Seats, and Partisanship

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Most General Assembly incumbents are resting easier. The Democrat and Republican map drawers took their guidance from the Virginia Redistricting Commission seriously and drew district lines putting most incumbents in districts with no other incumbents.

As discussed in an earlier post, the Commission members interpreted Virginia Code language as requiring it to protect incumbents as much as possible. That language prohibits the production of plans that, on the whole, “unduly favor or disfavor” a political party.

The extent to which the lines were drawn to protect incumbents is not obvious on the maps that have been made public. However, the map drawers, while presenting their recommendations on Saturday to the Commission, were able to turn on an overlay in their software that showed the precise location of each incumbent’s residence. A large number of those little dots were very close to district lines or nestled in an area that suddenly bulged from one district into an adjacent district. Continue reading

Redistricting: the First Stab at Statewide Maps

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Virginia Redistricting Commission started out by dividing the state into eight regions. Its original plan was to proceed with drawing House and Senate districts, region by region, starting with Northern Virginia. That quickly proved to be inefficient, slow, and impractical.  Last week the map drawers  were instructed to produce statewide House and Senate maps. As part of their guidance, they were told to “respect” political subdivisions as much as possible, while adhering to the compactness and equal population requirements.

Today, they produced those maps for the Commission members, and the public, to view and comment on. I will use one county with which I am familiar, Halifax, to illustrate two aspects of the redistricting process: how different, legitimate approaches can produce different results and the partisanship dilemmas. Continue reading

The Real Election Integrity Issue in VA this Year

by Paul Goldman

Virginia is on track to hold an unconstitutional, illegal election this November 2. The Governor knows it. The Lieutenant Governor knows it. The Attorney General knows it; indeed, he is in court fighting my effort as the lawyer for the defendants in Goldman v Northam, et al, which is a federal action against the Governor and the Virginia Board of Elections. (The case is number 3:21 – cv – 00420 and all the documents can be found in the federal court PACER system, free to all Virginians).

The upcoming November elections for the House of Delegates are flat-out unconstitutional. The constitutionality was decided in a previous federal case in Virginia (Cosner v. Dalton, et al, 52 F. Supp. 350 (E.D. Va. 1981). The defendants were John Dalton, then Governor of Virginia, and the top officers of the of Elections. In Cosner, the federal court merely applied the law as first articulated in the seminal case of Reynolds v Simms (377 U.S. 533). In 1964, the United States Supreme Court had declared the equal protection clause of the 14th applicable to the apportionment of the districts in state legislatures.

“Simply stated, an individual’s right to vote for state legislators is unconstitutionally impaired when its weight is in a substantial fashion diluted when compared with voters of citizens living in other parts of the state.” Reynolds at 568.

In the ensuing decades, Attorneys General of Virginia and their counterparts in other states have been in federal courts around the country trying to define the term “in a substantial fashion” as a statistical marker for legal purposes. Legendary Virginian Henry Howell, the leading anti-Byrd Democrat at the statewide election level, became the first in Virginia to put the Reynold’s decision to a constitutional test in the case of Mahan v Howell, 410 U.S. 315 (1973). Continue reading

Campaign Finance Reform in Virginia – the New Governor Must Lead

by James C. Sherlock

I consider campaign finance reform the foremost issue facing representative government in Virginia.

We are one of only a few states with no campaign donations limits at all. We pay for that in legislation enacted and not enacted because of the preferences of huge donors. And in the stink of legal public corruption.

It also drives way up the cost of running and keeps good people from participating.

The new governor will have to lead. Continue reading

Maybe the Redistricting Commission is Working Out After All

These maps compare the existing state Senate districts in Northern Virginia with one of two draft maps submitted to the Virginia Redistricting Commission. Source: The Virginia Mercury

In two recent articles in Bacon’s Rebellion, Dick Hall-Sizemore has thoroughly documented the sausage-making that has gone into the Virginia Redistricting Commission. It’s ugly, and it’s discouraging, and makes you wonder if there is any hope for humanity. But the release of two draft maps shows what the new districts could look like. The maps above, taken from The Virginia Mercury, show a proposed re-write of state senatorial districts in Northern Virginia that was submitted to the Commission.

It is a thing of beauty.

Without knowing the partisan implications — do the new boundaries throw incumbent legislators in the same district, do Republicans or Democrats gain ground or lose it? — who wouldn’t prefer the redrawn districts? Who wouldn’t prefer a system where the citizens pick their representatives over one where the politicians pick their citizens?

— JAB

Update: The Virginia Public Access Project reproduces the Republican and Democratic drafts for both Senate and House districts here.

Paperwork Is for the Little People

Missing

by Donald Smith

This is a story of two political candidates, from two different parties, and the standard that should –but almost assuredly won’t — be applied to both.

The candidates are Terry McAuliffe, Democrat, running for governor of Virginia in 2021, and Nick Freitas, Republican, running for the House of Delegates in 2019.

The standard is that candidates in Virginia elections have to satisfy state requirements for filling out key paperwork.

In 2019, Nick Freitas didn’t. From the Washington Post, July 26th 2019.

State election officials said his local Republican legislative committee never submitted a required form indicating Freitas was the party’s nominee. The state said another form, which Freitas personally should have filed, was also missing.

Freitas was forced to run as a write-in candidate. (He won).

Apparently, in 2021, Terry McAuliffe has his own paperwork problems. From the AP: Continue reading

Election Law Changes: Sept. 17 is Now Key Date

Photo from Henrico Citizen

by Steve Haner

If the current COVID-19 surge continues into the fall, and Governor Ralph Northam once again declares a health emergency, absentee ballots returned by mail will not need a witness signature. Now it will be by General Assembly fiat, not a judge’s order.

That alone ought to motivate a bunch of hesitant Republicans to rush out and get their vaccines to crush this surge. It is probably the same subset of people who continue to simmer over all the election law changes that were pushed through as “temporary” pandemic adjustments, and now are considered sacred and untouchable human rights. Continue reading

Can Poll Workers Halt Maskless People from Voting?

Rob Schilling, conservative talk show host on WINA. Photo credit: The Schilling Show

by James A. Bacon

On June 8, Rob Schilling walked into the Woodbrook precinct of Albemarle County to cast a vote in the Democratic Party primary. A talk show host on WINA radio, he was well-known locally as a conservative — there aren’t many in the area, so he stands out — but under Virginia law he has the right to vote in any primary he chooses. More problematic, he wasn’t wearing a mask.

Local poll worker Leo Mallek, who was wearing a blue surgical mask, stopped Schilling in the corridor leading to the room with the voting machines and told him to cover his face. Schilling refused and tried to enter the room to vote. One poll worker attempted to physically block him and grabbed his arm; another touched his shoulder to guide him out of the voting area. After a dispute lasting roughly four minutes, Schilling was allowed to vote.

On June 21, he filed a lawsuit against the poll workers and Albemarle County Registrar Jake Washburn alleging assault, battery and the violation of his voting rights. “What happened to me was beyond atrocious,” said Schilling in a press release. “Albemarle County voters should never face intimidation, harassment, and physical assault by elections officials when attempting to cast a ballot. These egregious violations of my rights, all captured on video, must be legally rectified.” Continue reading

Clean Virginia Dissed Again, Dem Takes Dom Cash

An image of Hala Alaya’s answer to a question on Clean Virginia’s candidate questionnaire, released by it in response to her breaking of that pledge.

by Steve Haner

Prince William Democrat Hala Ayala, who had pledged not to accept campaign contributions from Dominion Energy Virginia and took money instead from its opponents, has now accepted $100,000 from the regulated monopoly. Heads are exploding.

Del. Haya Ayala, D-Prince William

The anti-Dominion activist group Clean Virginia had given her $25,000 in her bid for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.  Now is has announced it will dump $125,000 into a last-ditch digital campaign to defeat her in the June 8 primary. Early voting in the primary has been underway for weeks, however. Early voters upset by this cannot call their ballots back.

Final pre-primary finance reports were released early in the week and word of the contribution quickly hit the Twitterverse, then sparked stories in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch and Virginia Mercury. Continue reading