It’s a Long Shot, But Redistricting Reform Is Worth Rooting For

Winding its way through the state Senate is a bill (SB38), authored by Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, that would turn the job of redistricting over to an independent, bipartisan commission. A bill that wins the support of Democrats Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and former Gov. Mark R. Warner as well as Republicans Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling and former Gov. George Allen must have something to recommend it.

The legislation, it is hoped, would reduce the practice of gerrymandering. Rather than create legislative districts to protect incumbents and handicap their rivals, an impartial redistricting process would create districts around geographic community of interest. That would mean more competitive districts and fewer safe seats for incumbents.

To most citizens, that sounds like a good thing. Once upon a time long ago, as in the mid-1990s during the days of the Gingrich revolution, Republicans supported incumbent-dislodging ideas such as term limits. But to Republican members of Virginia’s House of Delegates, terrified of seeing their majority whittled down in the next redistricting, an impartial commission apparently sounds like a bad thing. Writes Tyler Whitley with the Times-Dispatch:

“The vast majority of Virginians are much more concerned about the redistricting that determines where their children go to school,” said Jeff Ryer, who is an aide to House Majority Leader H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem. It would produce less accountability, not more, because the commissioners would not be elected, according to Ryer.

Now, that’s logical. Not. Voters care more how their school districts are drawn, therefore, we are to conclude what, exactly? That they don’t care at all about the shape of their legislative districts? That they’re just fine with gerrymanders that obliterate natural communities of interest? I don’t think so.

This is the same Republican caucus, I might remind you, that squelched, in a party line vote, a bill to record sub-committee votes. That proposal was offered as an antidote to a practice in which a handful of delegates in sparsely attended meetings can anonymously kill bills they don’t like.

Republicans favor transparency and accountability when it comes to government budgets and spending (rightly so), but they apparently don’t want to be held accountable themselves. They’re going against the grain of the electorate, including independents such as myself. They’re coming across as an aloof, unaccountable, self-perpetuating clique. That’s not a formula for retaining majority status. It’s also an attitude the Elephants may come to regret if the Donkey Clan regains power in the House and gerrymander them out of office.

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  1. Groveton Avatar

    “They’re coming across as an aloof, unaccountable, self-perpetuating clique. That’s not a formula for retaining majority status.”.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    I heard that there would be some ability for the General Assembly to modify the proposal, which is probably a good thing. Reapportionment by a truly neutral and presumably unbiased body could be better than the current situation.

    However, I have seen several so-called non-partisan reapportionments that just seemed to nail one party or the other. That situation is worse than the present because its dishonest. The Democrats made no bones when they made changes to hurt the Republicans in the 1990 reapportionment, and the Republicans returned the favor in the 2000 case. But that was open and transparent. It’s plain wrong to have so-called neutral people do the dirty deed in the guise of fairness.

    Both parties should have a shot at protecting themselves. If the proposal doesn’t include that, it’s wrong.


  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I was expecting to hear an EMR tome here since my impression of implementing fundamental change involves governance with respect to NURs.


  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I like the way that the two parties view redistricting as THEIR bone to chew on rather than it be the citizens and citizens ability to vote for candidates that are not affiliated with either party.

    Our election process is owned lock, stock and barrel by people who consider themselves as landlords and voters as tenants in their districts.

    This is so very wrong on so many levels and we have only ourselves to blame because we actually agree to their rules.

  5. Just a quick FYI – this bill is the result of combining 4 bills into one (story here). Not taking anything away from Deeds, mind you, but there are 3 other sponsors.

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