See below for a superb analysis of Amendment 1 – and why everyone should vote NO – by Amanda Pohl, the Democrats’ nominee for State Senate in SD11 in 2019 against far-right State Sen. Amanda Chase (R).
Virginia friends, a lot of people are talking about amendment 1 now that voting has started. I am going to give you my perspective. I’m not here to debate. If you have different opinions on this, feel free to post on your own page. I have done my homework on this for the last two years.
I’m voting NO on Amendment 1.
I’ve read the amendment and been to info sessions to learn more. None of what I heard assuaged my concerns. When I ran last year, I was clear that I support independent, nonpartisan redistricting. I was endorsed by multiple national fair redistricting organizations and advocates, including Eric Holder, and I was unequivocally clear in my questionnaires and interviews that I did not support this amendment because it’s NOT an independent redistricting commission. Interestingly, I have screenshots of the group pushing this running ads supporting my former opponent who knew she was going to end up in the minority.
Amendment 1 specifically puts party leadership in control of the process and with MORE power than now. At least now every Virginian is currently represented by two people who are part of the process who are accountable to us voters. If you’re not represented by party leadership, your voice, voter, is gone. It also gives whoever is the minority party equal power to the majority party and there are more likely to be disruptions since two people can say they don’t like the maps and it will go to the Supreme Court of Virginia. Now, I’m not as worried about SCOVA for the most part…they have to follow the law and there was a law making ALL FORMS OF GERRYMANDERING illegal in the 2020 session and it is in effect now. This amendment doesn’t stop gerrymandering; it increases the potential for a few people to derail the process and kick it to even fewer people to decide. I’m not comfortable with that. We don’t have recourse if gerrymandering occurs from the body that is supposed to protect us from gerrymandering.
The reasons I’ve been concerned about this amendment go beyond semantics. Minority voters are not protected in this amendment. If SCOTUS overturns the entire Voting Rights Act (which, let’s be real, that’s a possibility after last night), this amendment will lose all voting rights act protections.
This amendment was pushed through to get a win on gerrymandering. As someone who has analyzed policy and taught current experts to analyze policies, I am telling you that this amendment puts more power in the places we don’t want it. And enshrining it in the constitution makes it REALLY difficult to remove. Republican friends, right now this may look attractive to you because you want more power in the process as the minority…but Virginia may not always be controlled by Democrats and then you are giving more power to Democrats in these same processes.
To be clear, when the lines are drawn in 2021, gerrymandering is illegal thanks to the work of Delegate Marcia Price and other members of the VLBC. That cannot be overturned in time to draw the lines post-2020 census so they will be bound by the law no matter what. Read that again, Democrats INTENTIONALLY placed limits on their ability to gerrymander for any reason. The notion that they are going to gerrymander these districts in 2021 is false.
I’d rather we draw the lines in our current process bound by law than to ram through a bad amendment to get a hollow victory that doesn’t actually eliminate gerrymandering but gives very few people a lot of power over our process. I would absolutely support a completely independent redistricting commission bound by the same anti gerrymandering laws (and would love those laws in our constitution).
One last note: we still have same sex marriage bans in our constitution in 2020 🙃. THAT is how hard it is to get something out of the constitution once it’s there.