Home Virginia Politics The Reaction to Redistricting So Far

The Reaction to Redistricting So Far


Here’s some reaction on the recently released plans for Virginia redistricting.

1. Redistricting: 151 Proof: The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial board writes, “Opinion on the question of how to go about drawing the lines is sharply split. On one side stands the great mass of general opinion, the state’s newspapers and pundits, civic groups, think tanks, academia, public spirit and right reason. On the other stand the 140 members of the Assembly and the 11 members of the state’s congressional delegation. It’s not even a close fight.”

2. Virginia redistricting plan sausage making continues: The Roanoke Free Press writes, “The hearing at Roanoke’s Higher Education Center held about 50 people  Thursday evening. Sixteen people spoke. All were unanimous in their disapproval of the plan.”

3. Despite push for openness, Va. redistricting still secretive: DPVA spokesman Brian Coy says, “If the governor’s stated commitment to bipartisan redistricting was anything more than an empty political promise, he will fight to ensure that his commission’s recommendation is reflected in the final plan.”

4. The House Democratic Caucus writes, “That’s right folks; the Governor will not be listening to the recommendations made by his own Bi-partisan Redistricting Commission. Unbelievable!

5. Public decries Virginia redistricting plans at Roanoke meeting: “Speaker after speaker during a Roanoke meeting of the General Assembly’s Committee on Privileges and Elections complained that both House and Senate proposals split precincts, carved up communities of interest and generally redrew districts in a confusing manner.”

6. Redistricting plan lambasted at Hampton forum: “Disgraceful. Vindictive. Mean-spirited. An abomination. Insulting and possibly illegal.Those were a few of the words hurled at a group of state lawmakers Thursday night by some 30 Hampton Roads residents stirred to anger by proposed new boundary lines for state legislative districts.”

7. Williamsburg tea partiers upset with Norment’s new district, plan for public hearings…: “Williamsburg tea partiers are working to rally supporters to head to the General Assembly public hearing at Hampton University to complain about the new extended district Senate Democrats designed for Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment.”

8. Here on Blue Virginia, we’ve had a lively debate, kicked off by former Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Peter Rousselot the other day. Some people vociferously defended Dick Saslaw et al’s redistricting plans, while others lambasted them. Currently, the Blue Virginia poll has 50% “not pleased with either map,” 22% “very angry,” 9% “lukewarm,” and 16% who “love the Senate map, hate the House map.” That’s 72% unhappy with both maps, ZERO who like both maps, and 16% who like the Senate map but not the House map.

9. In other comments, it appears that several insiders – Sean Holihan (who works for Sen. George Barker, a major player in drawing up the Senate redistricting plan) and Democratic political strategist Shayna Englin are among the vociferous defenders of the redistricting plan(s). According to Englin, critics of the politicians’ redistricting plans are not “focusing on winning” but are engaging in “self-righteous handwringing & naval [sic] gazing.” Englin adds, sarcastically, “Because what matters more than pretty districts? Obviously not choice, education, the environment, health care, justice, housing, equality, tax reform, or any of the other myriad things the Dem Senate has largely (if not perfectly) been the bulwark for.” Englin “retweets” a comment stating wondering “if VA Dems think anyone outside the beltway & Richmond cares about gerrymandered districts.” Actually, as the articles cited above make clear, the discontent appears to be in the House Democratic Caucus and DPVA, Roanoke, Hampton Roads, Richmond, pretty much all over the Commonwealth. Finally, Englin writes, “Lessons (re)learned in VA redistricting: GOP is way more gangster than DEMs.” Hmmmm.

10. Finally,  Sean Holihan – who I hear was heavily involved in drawing up the Senate districts – adds (also sarcastically), “I know, I know….I should be calling for Dems to curl into a ball and run in the same districts we have now so then Republicans can laugh at us, still deny us bipartisan redistricting and keep us in 15 very nice looking Democratic seats.

Fascinating, isn’t it? The vast majority of regular people are not happy with these gerrymandered, “incumbent protection” plans. In addition, House Democrats and even the DPVA spokesman have lambasted Bob McDonnell for abandoning bipartisan redistricting. On the other side are, as a friend of mine put it, “A bunch of ‘Company Men’ doing their best to make s*** look like sugar with condescending blind item insults. Classy.”

  • see this analysis which indicates that under Dick Saslaw’s plan, Democrats would hold up to 21 seats, but that’s counting the average performance from 2000 through 2009, INCLUDING presidential and federal years where Democrats do much better than in “odd” year elections. Perhaps this really IS the best that could have been done, but if this analysis is accurate, then it’s looking shaky for Democrats’ chances of holding the State Senate this November.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Unless the impossible happens and nonpartisan redistricting becomes a reality in the state, there is little the state senate can do except try to protect the small majority it has. That’s the only recourse as long as the DPVA continues to muddle along the way it has in the past.

  • Paradox13VA

     The answer is giving Virginians an opportunity to vote for nonpartisan redistricting in a ballot referendum, and then get the D’s to support it. Go ahead and let the R’s run against it.

    This will never, ever get done through the elected  officials themselves.

  • tolbejr

    I know that people think the Senate plan is gerrymandered or not representative of their area of the Commonwealth.  But it is a little unfair for people to argue now that we should go with the Governor’s BI-partisan redistricting panel.

    The fact of the matter is that Democrats and Jill Vogel have passed non-partisan redistricting on multiple occasions only to have it die in the House of Delegates.  Bob McDonnell campaigned on the issue, but didn’t do a damn thing to support the legislation.  Instead, he’s getting off easy because he created this non-binding, no force of law redistricting panel.  It’s a sham, and Teflon Bob isn’t taking heat from it.


  • Peter Rousselot

    This is a defining moment for Virginia Democrats: which side to do you want to be on: insider protection or fair,  non-partisan redistricting? Do you want to throw up your hands and say “nothing can be done”? Do you want fall in line with the insiders’ argument that “this is just the way politics is played, and it always will be”? Or, do you want to stand for something that will appeal to a broad majority of voters? My choice is to repudiate both the Senate and the House caucus plans, and advocate for non-partisan redistricting even if it takes many months or a year to get it via a court order or a referendum. What’s your choice?

  • sbenglin

    A few of things about where I stand on this (with the usual but still necessary reminder that I am not my husband):

    1. Redistricting rules are an insider game. Most voters couldn’t name their Delegate or State Senator and couldn’t pick him or her out of a lineup.  They neither know nor care about the rules for redistricting nor the process by which the lines are drawn.  They surely aren’t going to vote based on whether someone supported or opposed any given redistricting plan – particularly not in 5 or 6 years when the only remaining consequence of all of this will be maps that make a Republican majority more likely in the House and a Democratic majority more likely in the Senate and no one but the political junkies will remember that there ever were different districts.

    2. Am I willing to trade pretty districts that meet someone’s (Peter’s? College students? A commission’s?) definition of more democratic map for a Democratic majority in the Senate that has by and large (though, again, not perfectly) stood as a bulwark against the increasingly crazy right wing House?  Absolutely not.  I’m a Democrat because I believe that everyone deserves an equal shot and that the government has a role to play in ensuring that.  Fighting for those values includes playing the game to win, according the rules as they are.  That’s what Republicans do, and unless Democrats do, too, we’re going to be left with nothing but our self righteousness.  No thanks.

    So, yes, I think we’re doing the thing Democrats do too often – engage in a circular firing squad fueled by handwringing and self-righteousness while the Republicans focus on winning at the ballot boxes, so they can win on policy.

    Repeating here so it’s very, very clear and cannot be misconstrued: I am not my husband.  My opinions and positions are solely my own.