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A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

A World Without Partisan Gerrymanders? Virginia Democrats Show the Way

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Note what Democrats do. Jesse Wegman writes in the NY Times:

Politicians rarely give up power voluntarily. They never give it up when they have free rein to lock it in for at least a decade, and exact long-overdue revenge against their political opponents.

But a group of Virginia Democrats did just that earlier this month, when they voted in favor of an amendment to the State Constitution stripping themselves of the power to redraw legislative district maps in 2021, after the decennial census.

Last fall, Democrats won majorities in both houses of the Virginia Legislature; with a Democratic governor already in office, they took full control of the state government for the first time in a generation. They had unlimited power to fashion the new maps in their favor, cementing their own grip on power just as Republicans around the country have done since the last redistricting cycle in 2011. Some Republican maps are so biased that they have given the G.O.P. legislative supermajorities even when the party loses the statewide popular vote, which happened in Wisconsin in 2018. So it’s entirely understandable for Democrats who regain power to want payback — now.

And yet nine Virginia Democrats agreed to put down their partisan swords and join Republicans to support the new amendment, which would require that the state’s district maps be drawn by a bipartisan commission made up of lawmakers and regular citizens. Voters must ratify the amendment in November before it will take effect.

The Democrats’ vote was a display of integrity and selflessness by members of a party with unified control of government. It placed long-term interest in the health of representative democracy over the shorter-term partisan benefits that both parties have been happy to exploit when they control redistricting.

The Virginia amendment’s passage is all the more important in the present moment, when voters everywhere have been left at the mercy of self-serving state lawmakers, thanks to the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene to stop even the most extreme partisan gerrymanders. The ruling last June, by a 5-to-4 vote, asserted that redistricting was a political matter to be resolved by the states, not the federal courts. The justices thus enshrined one of the most corrosive and anti-democratic practices in American politics.

Virginia’s new amendment would establish a 16-member commission, made up of eight lawmakers and eight citizens, divided evenly between the two major parties. A supermajority of both lawmaker and citizen commissioners would have to agree on a proposed map to send it to the Legislature and governor for approval. If they can’t, the job shifts to the State Supreme Court.

The amendment, which under the State Constitution had to pass the Legislature twice in a row before going to the voters, was first approved in 2019 by overwhelming bipartisan margins . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 March 2020 at 8:57 pm

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