Yesterday evening, prior to the “debate” (or whatever we’re calling that Trumpian nightmare), the Fair Districts VA folks put on a Zoom call – see video, below – to discuss the fatally flawed Amendment 1 and why Virginians should vote NO. Here are a few highlights, followed by the video.
- Del. Marcus Simon said he supports nonpartisan, independent redistricting, but unfortunately this amendment does NOT accomplish those goals at all. The problem is, as Del. Simon explained, the amendment was weakened in order to attract Republican support. Why Republicans would support it, of course, is that they’re scared of losing power in an increasingly Democratic Virginia. So what happened is that House Democrats put forth a far better alternative, but unfortunately it was voted down by Republicans and 9 Democrats (out of 55). And that’s where we are today.
- Del. Lashrecse Aird also emphasized that this amendment would NOT result in nonpartisan, independent redistricting. Instead, this will create a 16-member commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens “selected by legislators with no criteria on the makeup…of what type of citizens would be appointed.” Also, as Del. Aird pointed out, “it would only take two legislators of the same party…to disagree…to kick the map-drawing process over to the [Republican-dominated Virginia] Supreme Court.” That actually *compounds* the power of legislators, who would be in control “from the selection down to the final map over to kicking it to…the Supreme Court that was selected by Republican elected officials.” She stressed that “we can do so much better” than this amendment.
- Del. Mark Levine said that every time a proposal was put forth that would have created nonpartisan, independent redistricting in Virginia, Republicans killed it. And “this was the only thing that could get through…supported by the lead Republican gerrymanderer, Mark Cole, and the lead Democratic gerrymander, George Barker.” Also, even worse, “it’s just an advisory committee, because two legislators kill it – two Senators, two Delegates on the panel…and they just throw it away and all of those transparency provisions that many of you like… go out the window…and it goes directly to the Virginia Supreme Court.” So what’s wrong with the Virginia Supreme Court? “The current Supreme Court is made up of whoever the Republicans wanted to be on the court,” which means it’s very right wing…a sister of a sitting Republican Senator, Ken Cuccinelli’s former “right-hand man,” etc. And, finally, “the amendment allows pure, partisan, political gerrymandering.” So why would we put this fatally flawed amendment in the constitution? Answer – we shouldn’t. Instead, if Amendment 1 fails, Virginia already has a law to ban gerrymandering, but that won’t kick in if Amendment 1 passes.
- Del. Cia Price said there are “gerrymandering legislators that said no to independent redistricting, and instead of…challenging them, organizations settled for a ‘win’ at the expense of communities of color.” Price added that “there are no protections for Black or Brown communities” in this amendment, “nor our mandated inclusion on the commission.” Price argued that a “no vote is saying ‘no’ to a constitutional amendment that leaves out clear prohibitions of racial gerrymandering and…protections [for communities] of color.” “The fact that there are zero words in this amendment that say who the legislators or citizens are – not race, gender, age geography, nothing – except for party, that is just not acceptable…We could end up with an all-white, all-male, all-Northern Virginia…commission…that’s not good enough.” Finally, for those who say we can “fix it later,” the question is “why would we put an amendment that needs an amendment into our constitution?” Bottom line: “For something this important, we need to get it right the first time.”