The fight in the General Assembly over redistricting reform underscores why Virginians should support the constitutional amendment that would change how lawmakers redraw political boundaries.
This special session of the General Assembly was convened during a public health emergency to address the immediate issues of COVID-19 relief, as well as police reform stemming from the tumultuous events of this summer’s racial protests.
But because of objections led by House Democrats over the redistricting amendment, revisions to the state’s two-year budget could be delayed until after the Nov. 3 election. The budget language in dispute spells out how the amendment would be enacted if it passes, which would be moot if voters reject it. So why delay the budget over that, and hold up funds for local governments, schools and others that need it? What’s the risk?
The focus of the session should be on addressing economic uncertainty caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, not trying to stymie a much-needed reform that first cleared a Republican- and then a Democratic-controlled legislature and that now is pending before Virginians.
Amendment 1, as it’s listed on the ballot, would shift control of redistricting from the General Assembly to a bipartisan, 16-member commission consisting of state legislators and citizens that would bring into the open a long-secretive process. The new system only would be an improvement over the current approach of closed back-room deals. Historically, the redrawing of legislative and congressional boundaries has exposed the worst of petty partisanship as the controlling party created districts to consolidate power. Voters should pick their politicians, and not the other way around.