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[UPDATED with HIGHLY Revealing “Hot Mic” Moment] “Anyone who doubted that the redistricting amendment was a total partisan sham should have those doubts erased now.”

"...in the end, the citizens are only on the commission as window dressing. The power still lies with the legislators, nearly all of whom are determined to gerrymander."

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UPDATED 10:12 am – Sen. George Barker’s “hot mic” moment, in which he’s caught telling citizen commissioner Hutchins (who worries, “they are going to bomb us for this”) that only a “fairly small segment” of the population supposedly cares about redistricting, that you shouldn’t listen to the few people who don’t like this {“there will be some complaints here and there”), and that “If you try to cater to the last comment you heard from somebody, it’s difficult trying to figure out what’s best for Virginia.” Wow.

The following is from Chris Ambrose, who was one of the leading voices last year warning people that Amendment 1 would be a debacle (for instance, see Latest Email By “Fair Maps” Folks Takes Their Negativity and Dishonesty Into the Realm of Nasty and False Personal Attacks and Senators Ebbin, Favola and Howell Argue for the Redistricting Amendment. Here Are Two Rebuttals.; also “The sham of the Virginia Partisan Redistricting Commission is becoming clearer and clearer every day”). Ambrose references this Virginia Mercury article, which reports:

As the new Virginia Redistricting Commission prepares to start drawing new legislative and congressional maps, an increasingly political tone to its deliberations has some members openly speculating about whether the bipartisan body will be able to complete its job.

The 16-member commission met for three hours Monday afternoon to discuss several issues it’s planning to vote on Tuesday morning, including the logistics of who should draw what maps and how much consideration to give to existing political districts and incumbent legislators.

After sharp differences emerged over key aspects of the process, Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, suggested some of her General Assembly colleagues are losing hope the commission will work as advertised.

“I fought very hard for us to have this commission,” Locke said. “But toward the end of our special session, the water-cooler discussion that I heard was that there’s no confidence in this commission to even come up with maps.”

Now, here’s what Chris Ambrose thinks of all this:

Anyone who doubted that the redistricting amendment was a total partisan sham should have those doubts erased now. The Legislator members of the Commission are now demanding that they be allowed to draw the districts or they will use their veto to kill the maps. The only surprise is how brazen they are.

This open feud may be the result of some good citizen members who feel that fair maps should be drawn and are more vocal about it than the legislators who appointed them had expected. It should also be noted that there is one powerful advocate for fair districts from the legislature on the Commission. That is Marcus Simon But in the end, the citizens are only on the commission as window dressing. The power still lies with the legislators, nearly all of whom are determined to gerrymander. It is good to see the “window dressing” at least taking a public stand:

“I know it could fail if you all don’t vote for it here on this commission,” said Greta Harris, a Democratic citizen member who serves as a commission co-chair. “But then it could also fail from a citizen perspective if we aren’t trying our best to present maps that are fair. I don’t think we did a referendum to do the same thing we’ve done in the past.”

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