Home House of Delegates Welcome To the TOP HITS of Gerrymandering…and Why Virginians Should Vote NO...

Welcome To the TOP HITS of Gerrymandering…and Why Virginians Should Vote NO on the “Piss Poor” Constitutional Redistricting Amendment

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Welcome to the TOP HITS of Gerrymandering! Confused, and wondering what to think about the Redistricting Amendment that will be on your ballot this November? Well not to worry, I’ve assembled the greatest hits of gerrymandering, an album of all your favorite–and not so favorite—legislators, speaking about the amendment over the last two years. Enjoy this compilation…and vote “no” on the amendment this November! – Cindy

First, here’s Delegate Mark Levine (D-HD45) in the House Privileges and Elections Committee, asking the amendment’s patron, Senator George Barker (D-SD39): “There’s no prohibition against gerrymandering, aside from racial gerrymandering which is illegal under federal law; but there’s no prohibition in the amendment against partisan gerrymandering?” In response, Barker confirmed that the Amendment “does not dictate to the Commission how it’s going to draw the districts other than the types of things you mentioned.”

Next, here’s Delegate Joe Lindsey (D-HD90) in 2019, calling the Amendment “piss poor,” and a “bad example of our representative responsibility. Lindsey further criticized the Virginia Supreme Court being the backup plan if the Commission fails, saying “If we’re taking the Governor out of the process, I certainly don’t want the Supreme Court in it, because I’ve seen some of their rulings, and they don’t seem to be what I would expect as a representative of the whole of the Commonwealth.”

Next, check out Delegate Jay Jones (D-HD89), on the House floor in 2020: “When I look at this Amendment, I see nothing democratic about it…This is not the best that we can do…If you have any ounce of respect and value of democracy, you will vote against this Amendment.”

Check out Delegate Steve Landes (R-HD25), on the House floor in 2019, expressing his relief that the Amendment keeps legislators drawing maps, keeps letting politicians pick their voters: “Some of the original versions removed completely our involvement in the process…It is our constitutional responsibility.”

Here’s Delegate Lee Carter (D-HD50), correctly stating that passing this Amendment would be “putting in place something the General Assembly cannot undo—a commission with the legislators picking the people.”

Delegate Lamont Bagby (D-HD74 and Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus) took to the House floor in 2020 to say, “we have great concerns about having African-American representation in the room.”

Next, here’s Delegate Cia Price (D-HD95) on the House floor in 2019, focusing on the line in the Amendment reading “Districts shall provide, where practicable, opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.” Where. Practicable. Price said, “I just don’t think that racial fairness, language minority fairness, and cultural fairness should be parenthetical and optional.”

And in 2020, Delegate Price on the House floor reminded the minority Republican delegates that, while they may “fear that the new majority party might do to them what they did to us for twenty years, this year we actually did pass the criteria bill” that would tie our own hands in drawing districts.

Here’s Delegate Marcus Simon (D-HD53) on the House floor in 2020, offering a substitute to the Amendment that would actually contain the elements advocates have been fighting for— truly non-partisan, independent, no legislators, guaranteed participation in the process for minorities, and the full language of the Voting Rights Act written in. Del. Simon: “So, what I’m hearing is that we don’t trust the enabling legislation under my floor substitute to protect political minorities, but actual minorities need to rely on the enabling legislation that we will draft to know that they have a seat at the table. That’s unacceptable.”

In the House Privileges and Elections Committee, Delegate Price asked the patron of the Amendment, Senator Barker (D-39), “So if the Voting Rights Act were further gutted, would the protections that are in there today be applicable to this Constitutional Amendment?” Barker’s reply was that the language refers to the Voting Rights Act “as amended,” so that if it’s gutted, it would “be incumbent upon us to address that issue since there would then be that gap in terms of the things that are now provided as protections.” Or we could, oh, I don’t know, just write the language itself into our Amendment!

Later, Delegate Price asked, “In a party, could two legislators of the same party thwart the process and kick the map drawing process to the Supreme Court?” And Senator Barker replied, “only if the two legislators are in the same body [i.e. both are in the House or both are in the Senate].”

Senator Creigh Deeds (D-SD25), in the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, after voting to pass the Amendment, detailed why this Amendment is not what advocates for fair redistricting wanted and listed everything that is wrong with the Amendment.

Delegate Paul Krizek (D-HD44) asked in House Privileges and Elections Committee whether this Amendment could still result in partisan gerrymandering “because you’d have the politicians from both parties maybe working together?” And the patron, Senator Barker, replied, “you could certainly have odd-shaped districts if that’s what you’re talking about.”

Delegate Levine asked about the Amendment in the 2020 House Privileges and Elections Committee: “any two senators could thwart the whole process?” And Senator Barker, the patron, responded: “No, what you would have to have is two senators of the same party.” Ohhh, that certainly makes it all better!

Delegate Levine asked whether communities of interest are included in the Amendment. The patron, Senator Barker confirmed that they are not, but says they are “given a prominent position” in the enacting legislation—which can be changed any time at the whim of the legislature.

Delegate Levine asked the patron in House P&E Committee: “Isn’t it true that if the Supreme Court wanted to do any kind of gerrymandering, that didn’t include racial gerrymandering, there would be no place to appeal it, no relief?” Senator Barker stumbled to respond, but the answer was essentially yes, that is correct.

Delegate Don Scott (D-HD80), on the House floor, said he’s already got to be nice to the Speaker, the Majority Leader etc. and now he’s also got to be nice to the eight legislators on the Redistricting Commission or he’ll end up drawn out of his district! “Moreover, the Speaker, Senate Minority Leader, Senate Pro-Tem, they get to pick the folks. And as I read the Amendment…it doesn’t even prohibit her from picking herself! What kind of constitutional Amendment would you put… language in that gives politicians more opportunities to abuse?”

After watching all this, I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning – this amendment should be defeated, and I encourage everyone to vote NO this November!