Last Tuesday, I went Norfolk City Hall to cast my vote in a presidential election for the first time since my rights have been restored by Governor Northam. I clearly cast my ballot for the Democratic ticket and was proud to vote for Vice President Biden and Senator Kamala Harris at the top of the ticket. Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Bobby Scott also gained my votes. The toughest question I had to ask myself was how I was going too vote on Amendment 1, which is portrayed as a compromise to end Gerrymandering here in Virginia. After consulting elected leaders, community activists, friends and family, I am convinced that this Amendment does not meet the goals of what we need to do to truly end Gerrymandering here in Virginia, and that is why I voted NO. Here are some of the reasons why I voted NO on this flawed amendment, and why I urge others to do the same.
Virginia has a long history of disenfranchising the votes and voice of Black and Brown communities, packing those voters in districts that make their voices not properly heard in Richmond and Washington, DC. This is the main reason that I am strongly opposing Amendment 1. This amendment continues the systematic racism that Virginia is so well known for, including in regard to voting and elections. For far too long, Virginia legislators have been complicit in suppressing the voices of Black and Brown communities, and this amendment continues that trend. We should also be reminded that the courts have ruled numerous times that the last time we redistricted here in Virginia, several of the districts were ruled unconstitutional. The Courts then gave the General Assembly the opportunity to fix them, and not surprisingly they were unable to come to an agreement. Racial packing, I believe, would continue under this amendment, and no progress to alleviate these concerns would be made.
For years, many of us had advocated for truly non-partisan and independent redistricting. This “compromise” does the exact opposite of that. If Amendment 1 passes, legislators will pick all the members of the redistricting commission, both the legislators themselves and the citizens that would sit on the commission. This would continue Virginia’s long history of legislators picking their constituents, which has been an embarrassment to the Commonwealth. The party leaders will be making all the decisions, and that is not a change from the past.
Finally, I oppose this Amendment because this is the only way that the Republican Party is going to have any chance to regain control of the General Assembly, against the will of most Virginians. Whenever the NRA and the Virginia Citizens Defense League endorse a bill or amendment, it should send a clear message to commonsense Virginians that this is a bad idea.
Whenever you attempt to amend the Constitution of Virginia, it should not be taken lightly. Sadly, legislators want you to accept an immensely flawed amendment that could possibly affect Virginia for generations to come. That is why we need to re-think this amendment, come back, and fix it during future sessions and make sure that we get this right. The ramifications are far too great not to take these steps. I urge all my fellow Virginians to vote NO on this amendment because we can do better.