The Gerrymandering of Virginia
The recent closed-door, Inauguration Day redistricting by unrepentant Republicans in Virginia, which we wrote about last Tuesday and took place without notice or public hearing, was passed only because Democratic Senator Henry Marsh III was conveniently attending the Inauguration. House Bill 259 – which was originally a languishing proposal to re-shape the state’s House districts and heavily amended to include a re-districting map conceived by Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. and included the state’s Senate directs before it was voted on, has yet to be signed by Republican Governor Bob McDonnell . The amended bill is expected to be before the house today.
The move has sparked a national outcry regarding the practice, and yesterday drew a strong response from the Virginia Redistricting Coalition. The non-partisan Coalition calls upon the Speaker and the House to reject the amendments to House Bill 259:
“The Senate’s ambush on redistricting creates a dangerous precedent of redistricting anytime either party is in a position of strength and wants to increase its partisan advantage,” said Lynn Gordon, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia and co-chair of the Virginia Redistricting Coalition. “Speaker Howell and the House should reject that precedent by rejecting the Senate’s changes.”
Coalition co-chair John Stone takes an even harder line, adding,
“The Senate’s gerrymander amendment to HB 259 validates every stereotypical negative notion that the public holds about members of the legislature — that they are unethical, that they act primarily in their own self-interest or their party’s self-interest, and that all they care about is getting re-elected,” said Coalition co-chair John Stone of the Future of Hampton Roads. “The House can show a better side by voting down the Senate amendments.”
All eyes will be on Virginia as this situation plays out. Many have questioned if the move was constitutional, but at this point there seems no clear answer. Almost certainly the plan will face state and federal legal challenges. One thing we can be sure of is that if the move is successful Republicans from coast will quickly follow suit. Similar ALEC-supported measures are rumored to be in the works in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio, among others.
Clearly, the Republican Party has decided to forgo an honest introspection of its heavily flawed and divisive platform – and even more unsound leadership – and instead decided to just go ahead and start earnestly positioning itself to rig the system. Stay tuned.
Read the Virginia Redistricting Coalition Press Release HERE
More info on the legal questions HERE
Read our last story on this HERE