How to Rig the Redistricting Process with Nobody Noticing

Prison population. Source: Virginia Public Access Project

by James A. Bacon

While Virginia Democrats continue to batter Republicans with charges of “voter suppression,” they also continue to rig the electoral system to favor Democrats.

The national Census counts incarcerated persons at the correctional facilities where they are held. But a new Virginia law requires the state Redistricting Commission to assign prison inmates to their last known residential address, a move that will, in the words of the Virginia Public Access Project, “transfer political clout from rural to urban areas.” Unstated is the fact that it will also transfer political clout from Republican areas to Democratic areas.

The residence of an estimated 20,000 prisoners will be affected.

Prisoners’ presumed home addresses

Bacon’s bottom line: The creativity of the ruling class is boundless when it comes to perpetuating their hold on power. No stone is too small to turn over in the quest to shape the voting electorate and affect the redistricting process. 

Here is the absurdity of assigning “last known” residential addresses to prison inmates: It’s not their current address! Does it make sense at all to count an inmate who has resided in Red Onion State Prison for 10 years as, say, a Richmond resident, an Arlington resident, or a Martinsville resident? What if the offender was serving in the Navy and had been stationed in Norfolk for six months and now resides, courtesy of the Department of Corrections, in Buchanan County? By what stretch of logic is he counted as a Norfolk resident?

Upon what basis does the law assume that inmates will continue to live where they lived before? Has anyone studied the matter to see where inmates go when they are released from prison? Does an offender whose previous address was the City of Richmond necessarily return to Richmond and not to Henrico or Chesterfield, a different metropolitan region, or even out of state?

A favorite theme of fellow columnist Don Rippert is how old “plantation elite” governing class rigged the political system in innumerable ways, from staggered election years to one-term governors, to maintain their lock on power. Well, a new political class, the “woke elite,” runs Virginia today and it is doing the same thing.

Welcome to the new boss, same as the old boss.

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13 responses to “How to Rig the Redistricting Process with Nobody Noticing”

  1. tmtfairfax Avatar

    A number of years ago, I was helping my son move into a dorm at ODU. It was a busy day with lots of parents and students. The scene also included a progressive young man urging students to register to vote. Some did; others didn’t. Among the latter, were students who said, they’d rather vote in the home district or the state where they lived. The general response was “vote in both places.” Unlawful , needless to say, but totally ignored by the woke and those corporate types as pretending to be woke.

    As far as ex-felons voting, why aren’t the D’s also restoring their right to bear arms? At least for those whose conviction didn’t involve the use of a firearm. For the woke and those without intestinal fortitude, there are civil rights and there are civil rights.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    Maybe I’m thinking about this wrong – but if you draw districts according to population and one district counts a bunch of people that can’t vote then are there not actually fewer folks that actually do vote?

    And if a rural district typically votes 60-70% GOP – does it matter whether it has a full complement of voters or less if a prison there?

    I found this to be interesting on a somewhat related issue:

    16 states back Alabama’s challenge to Census privacy tool

    Sixteen states are backing Alabama’s challenge to a new method the Census Bureau is using in an effort to protect the privacy of people who participated in the head count

    A federal judge on Monday allowed the 16 states to file a brief in a support of a lawsuit brought by Alabama last month. The suit seeks to stop the Census Bureau from applying the method known as “differential privacy” to the numbers that will be used for redrawing congressional and legislative seats later this year.

    The states supporting Alabama’s challenge are Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia. Maine and New Mexico have Democratic attorney generals, while all the other states have Republican ones.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    So I’ll say it again. Make it SUPER EASY to vote but require strict ID for all voting options. Shoot for having 80% participation but again – lock it down so only those who truly entitled to vote – do so.

    Once that is done, it will be truly up to the candidates to actually represent voters no matter what political party they are allied with.

    I don’t expect Republicans to win a majority until and unless they find a way to truly represent blacks, Hispanics, Asians and other people of color and ethnicity. They cannot achieve a majority nor maintain it as a primarily old white guy party. Adapt or go extinct.

    1. “Make it SUPER EASY to vote but require strict ID for all voting options.”

      How do we go about doing that?

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        lots of venues and opportunities to vote but strict rules for ID.

        do what each side wants – easy voting – tough ID

        use technology as appropriate and available.

  4. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    20,000 residences spread out among a total population of 8.7 million…. much ado about nothing…

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Ben Cooper… another GOOD Republican.

  5. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    Ah the games, I remember the games. Baker v Carr, right? Districts are supposed to be equal in population, at least at the time of the census snapshot. But if you can include non voting population (incarcerated, military personnel and students registered in other states) you get a district with fewer registered voters to mail to, phone, turn out, etc. Saves you effort and money in your campaign.

    Including the full prison population in a single district was an advantage to that particular incumbent, no question, and arguably it is no worse to disburse them. It will also greatly complicate life when the Democrats take their next step and let felons vote while actually incarcerated. Those votes might flip some rural district, but not if they are diffused!! 🙂 This one is kinda six to one, half a dozen to the other….

  6. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Are they not students of a different learning? Oh wait. Nobody wants students voting either. So, yes.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      All in all.. The Dems want easier voting and more people voting.. and one gets the impression the GOP folks are not so hot on that idea.

      The GOP has to get it’s tent bigger to include more voters than just their conservative stalwarts… and actually many ethnic minorities tend to be Conservative so there actually is opportunity but the kicker is many of them work hard and long and they need easier access to vote.

  7. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    How to treat incarcerated folks has always been a problem in districting. The law used to give localities the option of excluding them in drawing local electoral districts.

    As Steve says, it is in the nature of the political process for the party in power to tweak the law to get an advantage. At least, this tweak is better than the proposals by Republicans that would have resulted in fewer people voting.

    This provision does not create anywhere near the advantage for Democrats as the 2019 provision pushed through by Republicans in their majority’s dying days did for them. That provision (1) included legislators on the new “non-partisan” redistricting commission , (2) gave Republican legislators equal representation on that body, and (3) made it possible for either party, including the minority party in the legislature, to veto any plan accepted by the majority of the members of the redistricting commission.

    It is difficult at this point to determine what substantive effect this change will have on the shifting of districts. The most obvious effect will be to make the senatorial district that includes Southwest Virginia bigger, because it will deduct about
    4,000 bodies from the census count for that region.

    As for Jim’s question of how can one predict where an offender will live when he is released, the sentencing court retains jurisdiction over offenders when they are released on probation or parole and DOC returns them to those districts. It makes sense to assign the last known address to those offenders while they are still in prison.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      In 35 years of Assembly watching I’ve not seen those mythical GOP bills intended to keep people from voting. I’m calling BS on that Dick. I do not put voter ID in that basket, especially not with all the various options the Virginia law provided. You’re falling into a predictable pattern. Two years ago there were NO drop boxes, and to now propose some limit on how many to allow is not a restriction. It is just common sense.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I submit the following bills proposed by Republicans in the 2021 session, all of which would have likely resulted in fewer people voting:
        HB 1970/SB 1459 (Cole and Normet)–Requirement of photo Id (would have repealed other forms of ID)
        HB 2028 (Runion)–Absentee ballots
        HB 2205 (Gilbert)–Same day voter registration repeal
        HB 2209 (Gilbert)–Absentee voters
        SB 1455 (Ruff)–Absentee voters

        In addition, Republicans unanimously opposed these bills, which expanded the voter base;
        SB 1245/HB 1888–Drop-off locations
        HB 1968–Absentee voting in person on Sundays

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