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Redistricting Constitutional Amendment On The Ballot

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment On The Ballot

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment On The Ballot

In the mid-2010s, the issue of gerrymandering, generally defined as the deliberate manipulation of electoral boundaries in such a way to protect the party in charge, began being discussed more publicly – not only by the Virginia press corps but also by interest groups. The goal – to create a non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting commission. Redistricting, which is a process required every ten years and driven by new census numbers, entails the mandatory redrawing of district boundaries for the Virginia House of Delegates, the Virginia State Senate and Virginia’s House of Representatives. 
 
Without question, neither political party in Virginia has carved out the most consistent or principled positions on the issue of the establishment of a non-partisan or bipartisan redistricting process. Republicans have litigated against it; Democrats have pleaded for it – not surprisingly when beneficial to each party’s cause, i.e. maintaining or achieving power and control. Most reasonable people understand why majority and minority parties behave this way. They may not condone the behavior and the commentary, but they understand it. After all, those who have the votes make the rules. Simple. 
 
Fast forward to what has happened in the last couple of years in Virginia politics – more specifically in the Virginia General Assembly. Advocacy groups have championed. Editorial boards have opined. Legislation has been patroned. Constitutional Amendments have been sponsored.  Not surprisingly, positions have morphed, principles have succumbed, political expediencies have been acknowledged and the General Assembly floor and committee debates have led to some circus-like verbal gymnastics.   
 
In the 2019 General Assembly Session, the GOP-controlled House and Senate, after years of opposing it, passed on a bipartisan basis the first reading of the Constitutional Amendment that created the Virginia Redistricting Commission. Because it entailed amending the Virginia Constitution, the issue needed to pass a second session; with an election occurring in between. In the 2020 Session, in what became one of the most high profile and contentious issues between the House and Senate and the Democrats who now controlled both chambers, the amendment again passed on a bipartisan basis. 
 
So where does the issue stand now, on the cusp of the November 3 election, with the below Constitutional Amendment on the ballot? How does the proposed amendment read? 

PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT #1
Article II. Franchise and Officers.
Section 6. Apportionment.
Section 6-A. Virginia Redistricting Commission

“Should the Constitution of Virginia be amended to establish a redistricting commission,
consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth,
that is responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts that will be
subsequently voted on, but not changed by, the General Assembly and enacted without the
Governor's involvement and to give the responsibility of drawing districts to the Supreme Court
of Virginia if the redistricting commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to
enact districts by certain deadlines?”

 
The overwhelming majority of interest groups, political leaders, newspaper editorial boards continue to support the creation of Virginia’s Redistricting Commission. Some now actively oppose it. The State Senate of Virginia and the Virginia House of Delegates have conflicting language on the commission in their respective budget reports, which are being negotiated at the time of this writing. So, the matter is not entirely resolved. But the issue is on the ballot. For those readers who would like to access more information on the issue, please click here for the Virginia Department of Elections website, which addresses the proposed constitutional amendment.  For those who are resolved, please be sure to vote on November 3 if you’ve not already done so. 

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