Home Virginia Politics Video: Delegates Vivian Watts, Mark Levine Systematically Demolish Redistricting Amendment

Video: Delegates Vivian Watts, Mark Levine Systematically Demolish Redistricting Amendment

House Republicans "really really want this constitutional amendment; they have said so very clearly."

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See below for video from earlier this afternoon, as Delegates Vivian Watts and Mark Levine systematically demolished the proposed redistricting amendment, which was (foolishly) reported from the House Privileges and Elections committee yesterday. A few key points:

  • Del. Watts argued: “What I am concerned about in passing the wording that was adopted last year, we will set into place in perpetuity a process that is closed. And that’s the last thing that we want to do. Why do I say it’s closed? Because the process that we will be setting in place for future generations doesn’t start until November 15th, then there’s another deadline that’s January 1st, and then there’s another deadline that is February 1st, and it isn’t until February 1st when the Commission finally sits down and names a chairman, just six weeks later the final census numbers will be before us. Just six weeks. And in that six weeks, all of those wasted months that have occurred before are designed quite frankly to perpetrate a process that is all staff driven and while it seems to be open, it is not open to public input.”
  • As Del. Levine explained, House Republicans “really really want this constitutional amendment, they have said so very clearly.”
  • For years, House Republicans have been “nothing but consistent” in their strong support *for* gerrymandering, including their 2011 “very strong gerrymander in favor of Republicans  [which] in fact…was an illegal racial gerrymander.”
  • This proposed constitutional amendment would absolutely allow gerrymandering, and would also likely kick it all to the Republican-dominated Virginia Supreme Court, with no possibility of appeal. All that would take is for two Republicans from the House of Delegates to decide they want it kicked to the Republican-dominated Supreme Court. At that point, “it doesn’t matter if eight citizens want us to do independent commission, it doesn’t matter if the other six legislators want it.”
  • There are ZERO guardrails on the Republican-dominated Supreme Court in this amendment. All this amendment says is that “the districts shall be established by Supreme Court of Virginia.”
  • There’s an alternative to this fatally flawed amendment, namely *legislation* to do fair redistricting right in 2021, then a constitutional amendment *done the right way* for 2031. And yes, this amendment is badly flawed. As Del. Levine said, “I actually haven’t met a single person yet, maybe someone will come to me, but I’ve not met a single person yet that says I like this constitutional amendment…its opponents clearly think it’s flawed…supporters think it’s flawed, 1Virginia2021 thinks it’s flawed..
  • This amendment would cede the legislature’s power to the Virginia Supreme Court: “now if this constitutional amendment goes into effect, for the first time in Virginia history, you will have…a judge and a jury and a legislature and a governor all embodied in the seven individuals on the Supreme Court of Virginia with zero guardrails…here we have an unconstrained body…that has no appeal.”
  • The Virginia Supreme Court, of course, is dominated by Republicans, so it’s not even close to being bipartisan, let alone nonpartisan: “Let’s look at who’s on the Court. We have the judge that wrote opinions for Ken Cuccinelli. We have a sister of a sitting Republican senator. We have an ex Republican Senator and delegate. I’m sure these are good people, but they’re not bipartisan, they are majority Republican. So I go back to the comment by my friend – why are Democrats willingly giving away power?”
  • And no, the “enabling legislation” does NOT fix this fatally flawed amendment: “I asked the question of the patron of the bill, I said when law is inconsistent with the Constitution, which prevails? And he answered, rightfully, the Constitution prevails…when a law and the Constitution are inconsistent with each other, the Constitution prevails. We hear of laws all the time being declared unconstitutional; we’ve never heard of a Constitution being declared unlawful, as it doesn’t happen, the Constitution wins.”
  • Bottom line, per Del. Levine: “I believe that putting in our Constitution an amendment that allows gerrymandering, that doesn’t allow appeal; that allows the Supreme Court of Virginia to be judge, jury, legislature and governor; that’s just not a risk I’m willing to take; and so for all those reasons, I urge everyone to vote against the constitutional amendment when it comes to the floor.”