Commentary: All-In for Nonpartisan Redistricting

Commentary: All-In for Nonpartisan Redistricting

These last weeks are a flurry of activity as we rush to complete our legislative business by our Constitutionally mandated deadline of Feb. 25.

Last Saturday, I participated in two widely attended Town Halls. In Mount Vernon, I was joined by Senators Scott Surovell and Adam Ebbin. At the Lee Town Hall, I was joined by Senators Surovell and George Barker, as well as Delegates Mark Sickles and Vivian Watts.

Mount Vernon and Lee residents are rightfully fired up right now and spoke with one voice calling for fair redistricting reform. The House Privileges and Elections Committee killed every single redistricting reform bill introduced this session.

I am very disappointed in the House P&E committee, and stand with 44th district residents demanding fair districts.

Nonpartisan redistricting was the single most important topic the General Assembly considered this year. While nonpartisan redistricting is not a silver bullet to fix every political ill, most of the political gridlock and problems we experience today can be traced back to extreme partisan gerrymandering.

Let me be clear: I fully support nonpartisan redistricting reform, and pledge to support such a measure regardless its effects on the fortunes of my party at the time.

Throughout our American history, redrawing districts to favor the party in power was considered a spoil of victory. Both Democrats and Republicans would shore up a couple vulnerable seats here and there, which would then be traded back and forth every decade, depending on the party in power.

Something different happened in 2011. Aided by the powerful computer program, Maptitude, the Republican Party drew political maps in Virginia and across the country and drilled down block-by-block as to how many Democrats there were, or conversely, how many Republicans there were.

This led to a systematic slaughter of our political maps and the most bitter divide between Republicans and Democrats since the Civil War.

Before I served as your delegate, I had the honor to serve as an advisor on Fairfax County's reapportionment task force in both 2001 and 2011. I've witnessed firsthand that it is indeed possible to draw district lines fairly, without considering partisanship — keeping communities of interest together. I'm proud of the work we did then.

The voters must choose their elected officials. It cannot be the other way around.