Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Gerrymandering in Virginia and Maryland

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Gerrymandering in Virginia and Maryland

The warship Vasa was a floridly crafted masterpiece with at least 700 delicately carved sculptures, figurines, and ornaments, and three gun decks. In 1625 King Gustavus II Adolphus had earmarked it as his navy’s flagship. Its design was unprecedented in its complexity and scale at a time when constructing a ship was trial-and-error. With four of its ten sails unfurled, guided by a light breeze, it launched on its maiden voyage into Stockholm's waterways. Barely a kilometer offshore, a slight gust caused the topheavy ship to list to port, then it rolled over and sank. This is a perfect description of a Republican gerrymander.

Virginia's own Ed Gillespie is widely credited with “RedMap,” the alleged Republican gerrymander implemented following the 2010 Republican state legislature sweep wherever Republicans controlled redistricting. The Virginia House of Delegates was allegedly one such example. During the Obama-Biden Administration, the Democrats lost over a thousand federal, statewide, and legislative seats, thanks to public discomfort with that administration's arrogant overreach. Then Donald Trump's election in 2016 put an unpopular Republican in the White House and the wind shifted, causing a “blue tsunami” which cost Republicans 40 seats in the House of Representatives in 2018 and took the Republicans' 2:1 edge in the Virginia House of Delegates to near parity in a single Election Night in 2017!

Across the River, though, in Maryland we see a Democrat gerrymander, complete with a pinwheel-shaped district to facilitate diluting the conservative parts of the state by subsuming them in districts dominated by Democrat population centers. Unlike RedMap, this gerrymander worked to keep the gerrymandered seats Democrat even in the “red wave” 2014 election.

After years of carping about gerrymandering and running on promises to fix it, the Virginia Democratic Party's virtual convention June 20-21 voted 1,469-233 to oppose the redistricting constitutional amendment via a resolution saying redistricting reform might mean “loss of the Democratic majority in the House of Delegates as early as 2021 and the Senate by 2023” and potentially leave Democrats “unable to retake the majority in either body.” Most Democrat members of the House of Delegates who had voted for the redistricting reform constitutional amendment when Republicans still clung to control did a volte face and voted against it once they were in a position to gerrymander.

Fortunately, nine honest Democrats in the House of Delegates joined Republicans in approving the amendment, which will appear on next month's ballot. Voters who care mainly about having Democrats in charge of government and believe campaign promises to support redistricting reform lose their salience when Democrats are in control will, like the 1,469 ultra-partisans at the state party's virtual convention, be voting against the amendment and trusting their Democrat-dominated state government to redistrict Republicans into oblivion. One party isn't very competent at gerrymandering, but the other party has turned even the most blatant gerrymanders into an artform. Which of the two is the greater danger to democracy?

Voters who care about honest government, who believe a viable two-party system produces better government and prevents abuse of power, whether Democrat, Republican, independent, or third party, must vote for the redistricting reform constitutional amendment to preserve our state government's integrity.

Dino Drudi