See below for video of yesterday’s “hot mic” moment by VA State Senator George Barker at the Virginia Redistricting Commission meeting, Also, see comments from Chris Ambrose, who was one of the leaders AGAINST Amendment 1 last year, having warned over and over again that this commission was fatally flawed, would be a debacle, etc. And…that’s exactly what has happened, despite the (false) reassurances of politician gerrymanderers like Sen. Barker, who (falsely) claimed that putting this amendment in the Virginia constitution would be a step forward. As we can all now see with our own eyes, it absolutely wasn’t an improvement – quite the contrary!
One of the craziest arguments I heard from advocates of Amendment #1 was that, despite all its flaws, it moved the process out from behind closed doors. Essentially, that argument went like this: Even though the legislators remained in control of the process, at least they will have to Gerrymander in plain sight.
To which I would say “putting aside the question of don’t we want to END gerrymandering rather than just move it into public view, how many people will really be paying attention?” Obviously, Senator George Barker understands the answer to that question as evidenced from his conversation with citizen Commission member Brandon Hutchins:
Hutchins: “I feel terrible that I can’t get on board…If I’m thinking like a normal, everyday citizen asking us to do what they perceive as fair, I can’t do anything but, regardless…”
Barker: “You were elected to be on this commission; once you’re on the commission, it’s your job to do what you think is best for Virginia, not just what we’re hearing in terms of testimony. It’s a hard thing to sort of work through, but that’s what we have to do all the time; we can’t just cater to the public…”
Hutchins: “They are going to bomb us for this…”
Barker: “No, actually, they won’t, because it’s actually a fairly small segment of the public that is working on this issue. And I think in the end…There’ll be some complaints here and there, there always are. And if you try to cater to the last comment you heard from somebody, it’s difficult to…trying to figure out what’s best for Virginia, not what we heard in testimony…It’s not easy [laughter]…you went for this, you filled out that form.”
…So what it boils down to is we have an amendment that allows legislators to Gerrymander, but it is somehow transformative because now they have to Gerrymander in view of the .5% of the public that is watching. WOW that is impressive reform. And this crap is part of the Constitution. If we want any chance of fixing it, people need to demand a new constitutional amendment is introduced immediately for the 2030 cycle. If that does not happen, it will fade from public view and it will never be fixed. Frankly, the current process benefits the legislators so much that I doubt it will ever be fixed. It is a travesty that was pushed on the voters by a disinformation campaign by OneVirginia2021 because they simply wanted to be able to claim they chalked up a victory.
P.S. Also see below for video of Phillip Thompson of the National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization ripping the shit out of the commission, saying (correctly) that they “you set yourselves up” [for failure], that “you guys put your own selves in this mess”; that “I took heat from the Black Legislative Caucus by pushing for this commission”; that they have guaranteed a “stalemate,” that the VA Supreme Court might as well start hiring now to draw these maps. “It’s really sad for the people of Virginia”; this is a “political circus”; this is “not what we worked for.”