The House of Delegates Privileges and Elections Committee meets this afternoon to consider several competing proposals for a new House of Delegates district map, all having proponents who claim they will satisfy demands from a federal court.
Setting aside the politics and hypocrisy on both sides, when I see the Virginia Public Access Project’s displays and analyses on these various proposals I just marvel at the way technology has changed this process and appreciate the way VPAP has presented it to us all.
The game was far simpler before this detailed GIS mapping technology, overlain with all the demographic and political data. I will never forget staying up almost all night in 1991 to prepare a Senate plan with nothing but paper precinct lists and an Excel spreadsheet.
As previously noted, and this opinion won’t be shared by all, this has gotten out of hand. The 2011 redistricting map was certainly a gerrymander, as they all are now, but it contained neither the intent nor the effect of racial discrimination. It met the legal standard as understood at the time, passed with commendable bipartisan (and biracial) support and was cleared by the Justice Department. Nobody stood on the floor of the General Assembly and screamed “Jim Crow!”
The people now claiming harm are seeking partisan advantage, nothing else.
If the federal courts now read the Voting Rights Act a bit differently the proper remedy is to set the rules clearly in time for the 2021 mapping process and election. To tweak a couple of dozen districts (perhaps hundreds of precincts) for just one election cycle, and then change them again two years later, is a remedy that creates more harm than benefit.
I say this now with the added experience of working in a poll and dealing with voter confusion over where they should be. Jumbling precinct lines causes harm. Period.
But among the benefits to one side might be a quick change in control of the House of Delegates, so we go through this exercise. With the publication now of two Republican-sponsored plans along with a highly-partisan Democratic plan the Democrats and Governor Northam can either accepts something that meets the new rules or reject them all and send the matter to a court-appointed special master.
Their problem is that the special master’s first step, I suspect, will be to review the plans considered by the special session, and if one of them does the trick, recommend it to the judges. Almost 30 years ago, working for the then-minority caucus, we were drawing plans we knew would be voted down but we hoped would be attractive to a court seeking alternatives.
With this new plan sponsored by Delegate Chris Jones that outcome might be more likely. I’m sure it has been refined with careful consideration of the court’s order, and it apparently has some Democratic endorsements. The end of this game may be in sight. The General Assembly should solve this, not the court.There are currently no comments highlighted.