2019 is a critical year for Virginia. The actions — or inactions -- of our legislators during the next few months will likely determine how our voting district lines are updated in 2021 in response to 2020 census data. Unless Virginians demand a better process for updating voting districts, we’ll probably be stuck with even more partisan and racial gerrymandering than we’ve got now. Virginia’s constitution allows legislators to draw their own voting districts. But today’s politicians use big data and mapping software to capture just the voters they want in their districts and gerrymander around those they don’t want. It’s not hard to get re-elected when you’ve rigged the voting districts this way, so politicians have less reason to represent us or do effective constituency work (Akey et al., 2018).
To improve this bleak situation, the organization OneVirginia2021 has formed a bipartisan committee of distinguished constitutional experts.
The committee members have proposed a Virginia constitutional amendment built on the experience of other states where redistricting commissions update voting districts more fairly. The amendment proposed for Virginia would create a bipartisan commission that would be required to work transparently and to prioritize community boundaries.
This is the critical part: the proposed amendment must be passed by the Virginia legislature in 2019 to be in place before the 2021 redistricting process. There are other steps to activating the amendment, but we must start now to clean up our gerrymandering.
Now Virginians need to contact their state representatives and demand a transparent, bipartisan redistricting commission that allows citizens to vote together as communities. Otherwise, Virginians could be in for more big data and less democracy running our state until 2031.
JoAnn Kennedy Flanagan