Friday, June 23, 2017
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Progress Virginia Statement on Supreme Court Ruling in House of Delegates...

The following statement is from Progress Virginia regarding this morning's Supreme Court ruling on Virginia House of Delegates gerrymandering, which held that "the District Court employed...

It’s time for voters to choose their representatives again

Government in this country works by consent of the governed. At least that's how it's supposed to work, but here in Virginia we've allowed...
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Attorney General Herring Shouldn’t Make Announcements While I’m on Vacation

I was excited when I first decided to take an extended vacation the two weeks leading up to Labor Day. Time to get out of the swampy Mid-Atlantic summer heat of August and flee to cooler climates.

Then I realized that the weeks coincided with the run-up for the September 1st deadline the court had set for Congressional redistricting. Perhaps the General Assembly would be working on an 11th hour compromise?

Nope. Early in the special session my fears were put to rest as the Republicans tried to jam everything and forced Democrats to adjourn. Redistricting would occur in September after I was back from vacation.

Then Mark Herring announces that he will be running for reelection as the Commonwealth's Attorney General! It's a good thing I kept my phone on so I could get the texts from friends back in the Commonwealth while on vacation!

A few thoughts.

1. Announcing before this fall's elections ensures that the narrative will not be one of Herring being pushed out by concerned moderates and negative nay-sayers. Despite the all-out effort by the Democrats to win back the State Senate, they are on hostile terrain and could still fall short. Should this happen, the political talking heads could point to the election as a sign that Virginia is still a tough, purple state, and that the VMI graduate and more moderate Ralph Northam would be a better candidate for Democrats going into 2017. The pressure would be on to unite the party and avoid a primary fight.

Will Nonpartisan Redistricting Ever Happen?

One Virginia 2021 photo OneVirginia2021_zps9a508953.jpg About a year ago a small group convened to investigate the possibility of revitalizing the issue of redistricting. They believe that the in-state legislative districts belong to the citizens of the Commonwealth; not to any legislator, political party, or special interest. They are fighting for an independent commission on redistricting.

The core issue that underlies the dysfunction, gridlock, and disrespect in Richmond is the current redistricting process where the Party in power, Democratic or Republican, goes behind closed doors, chooses its own criteria, and draws maps where they actually choose their voters rather than allowing citizens to choose their elected officials. It is the deliberate manipulation of district lines for political power. As a result, we live the fifth most gerrymandered state in the Union.

"Look at the last General Election. The difference separating Ed Gillespie and Senator Warner was less than one percentage point. We arguably live in a purple state. But the closest Congressional District in the state was 16 points. There is no doubt to the outcomes. At the local level that means there is a disincentive for state legislators to debate ideas to find solutions and work together on the issues." - former Delegate Shannon Valentine

81 seats in the House of Delegates are completely safe; the remaining 19 are considered somewhat competitive but rarely feature an opposing major party candidate. There might be 10 races where there is a doubt about the outcome and maybe two seats change out each election.

59 localities in the House districts are divided. 46 of 40 in the state Senate are divided meaning they are divided more than once. Culpepper residents, for instance, are represented by three different Senators. In Lynchburg there are 72,000 households and there are four different ballots required.

Since the February 2014 launch of One Virginia 2021; Virginians for Fair Redistricting the group has built an organization with a foundation and a public policy council. They are committed to being multi-partisan. 40% of Virginians consider themselves independent. There is a member of the Tea Party Executive Committee on the policy council. All of them know what is at stake with redistricting. Shannon Valentine is one of many disciples crisscrossing the state encouraging redistricting reform.  

Virginia in 2020: A Look Ahead

A little over a year ago, I started a series of diaries looking at the past, present, and future of Virginia politics. You can check out the entries here: Day One, Competitive Districts. Day Two, Turnout Problems. Day Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents. Day Six, Present Opportunities. Day Seven, Democratic Trends. Day Eight, Swing Voters. Day Nine, 2021 Redistricting. Day Ten, Independent Redistricting. Day Eleven, A Diverse Future. And finally Day Twelve, Messaging This year, I wondered if there was enough new information to justify a complete update to the series. But Mark Warner's near defeat in 2014, and the analysis about the race that followed, showed the trendlines of a year ago are stronger than ever. Instead, I spent this weekend looking at various population trends and projections in Virginia, with an eye to the next round of redistricting.

In the fall of 2012, UVA's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service issued its population projections for 2020 and beyond. They forecast a slowdown in population growth overall for the Commonwealth, with Southside and Southwest Virginia barely growing at all.

But their projections came with a grain of salt.

Following Up on Mark Warner’s 2014 Performance

Before the 2014 election I wrote about specific areas to watch for sorting out ongoing political trends in Virginia. After Mark Warner's nail-biting reelection night, I tore apart the Warner campaign's claim that they ran significantly ahead of other Democrats in Virginia's rural areas, with a follow-up diary comparing Mark Warner to Tom Perriello. Today, I want to take the time to follow up on some of the areas I picked as canaries in the coal mine of Virginia politics. While dissecting Election 2014 by House of Delegates and State Senate district is still being finalized by the good people at VPAP, here are some preliminary findings.

9th House of Delegates District (Franklin, Henry, Patrick Counties): The 9th had been at the center of Warner's crossover support in 2008, and featured a lively fight by Ward Armstrong after Republicans targeted him in their gerrymandering. The result in 2015? Mark Warner received 36% of the vote, just marginally above Obama's 34% in 2012.

12th House of Delegates District (Montgomery and Giles Counties, Radford City): Warner received 52% of the vote here, higher than Obama's 50% but behind Kaine's 54%. This is a unique district, the influence of Virginia Tech makes it very different than other Southwest districts. It also remained one of the best districts for Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.

6th House of Delegates District (Wythe, Carroll, Smyth Counties): Warner's 34% of the vote is behind Democrat McGrady's 37% from his 2013 delegates race, which somehow House Democrats convinced themselves was in the bag. About the same as Tim Kaine's 34% in 2012, but not an impressive showing based on prior Warner claims about Southwest popularity.

14th (Danville City; Pittsylvania and Henry Counties) & 16th (Pittsylvania and Henry Counties; Martinsville City) House of Delegates Districts: Warner received 48% of the vote in the Danville based 14th, marginally better than expected given his near defeat statewide. His 43% in the 16th was similar; better than normal Democrats, but only by a few points.  

It’s Never Over in Virginia

The dust has settled over the Commonwealth after election day 2014, and Mark Warner will survive to serve out another six years in the Senate ... assuming he stays that long. But there's no end to campaigns in Virginia, which because of our odd-year election cycle hosts heated elections every calendar year. For instance, with newly elected Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, there will soon be a special election for the 34th House of Delegates district. Other special elections will be held in the 4th district (Southwest Virginia, to replace newly elected State Senator Ben Chafin) and the 63rd district (Petersburg, to replace newly elected State Senator Rosalyn Dance) -- but don't expect any surprises there. Here's a preview of what to look forward to in Virginia politics.

34th House of Delegates Special Election
Let's give a brief history of the 34th in the last few election cycles. In 2007, Republican incumbent Vince Callahan retired and the open seat was won in a good Democratic year by Margi Vanderhye. Margi had defeated Rip Sullivan in the Democratic primary (Rip is finally making his way to Richmond from the 48th District). I wonder if Rip's pleased that he didn't end up in the 34th, as in 2009 a Republican tsunami swept out Vanderhye by 422 votes.

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Ten, Independent Redistricting?

Welcome to this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. As we approach the end, take a look back at some of the earlier diaries: Day One, Competitive Districts. Day Two, Turnout Problems. Day Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents. Day Six, Present Opportunities. Day Seven, Democratic Trends. Day Eight, Swing Voters. Day Nine, 2021 Redistricting. Thank you for reading.

On the tenth day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me...Independent Redistricting, the long awaited for, much hoped for, yet ever-elusive good government reform that will reconnect politicians with voters, end polarization, and put Virginia back on track.

Well, no. If you want to really reconnect politicians with voters, you need to expand the number of districts so there are fewer people per district. End polarization? Political scientists have found little to no evidence that gerrymandering is driving polarization; you'll have to tackle housing preferences and the individual sorting of voters to do that. Independent redistricting will not even solve all the challenges and obstacles of the Virginia Democratic Party, as the first diary showed that there are many Democratic-leaning seats that the state party is not winning at this time.

So why talk about redistricting reform?

Because unlike campaign finance reform or expanding the size of the General Assembly, independent redistricting, or at least something more partisan-neutral, may be closer to reality than you think.

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day Nine, The Ghost...

Welcome to this twelve part series looking at the challenges, obstacles, and future possibilities of Virginia Democrats. If you've missed past diaries, follow these links: Day One, Competitive Districts. Day Two, Turnout Problems. Day Three, Past Mistakes. Day Four, Downstate Democrats. Day Five, Unchallenged Incumbents. Day Six, Present Opportunities. Day Seven, Democratic Trends. Day Eight, Swing Voters. Thank you for reading. No poll this time, but I do have a question at the end I want comments on!

A phantom of darkness suddenly appears, gliding ominously over the ground toward you. Shrouded in the blackest cloak, its head and face are entirely concealed. One skeletal hand stretches out toward your, a boney finger directed behind you. From beneath the hood, you can feel the gaze of two ghostly eyes directing you to turn around. Doing so, you feel transported ...

Twelve Days of Christmas for Virginia Democrats: Day One, A Gerrymander!

Don't forget to take the poll at the end on your least favorite part of the Republican gerrymander!

On the first day of Christmas, the Commonwealth of Virginia gave to me ...

A Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates that is the excuse for everything that goes wrong?

It may seem as exciting as a lump of coal, but the Republican gerrymander in the House of Delegates gets a lot of attention from thankful Virginia Democrats. Why? Because these district lines have become the perfect excuse for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad performance of House Democrats in 2013.

Manage to pick up only one seat, on net, in the House of Delegates? No worries, blame the Republican gerrymander!

A total of 14 Barack Obama-won delegate districts still held by Republicans, and 16 won by Tim Kaine? Mumble mumble, gerrymandering ...

Terry McAuliffe won 11 delegate districts held by Republican Delegates, and Mark Herring still won 9, but .. Look over there, it's a gerrymander! Run for your lives!