Virginians showed their support for good government this election by overwhelmingly voting in favor of a constitutional amendment that will overhaul the state’s redistricting process.
By a margin of 2 to 1, Virginia voters approved Amendment 1, which will bring transparency to the state’s long-opaque process for the drawing of legislative and congressional districts.
More than 2.4 million Virginians voted in favor of creating a bipartisan redistricting commission. Responsibility for designing the districts will move from the General Assembly to the citizen-chaired, 16-member panel, which will consist of eight members from the House of Delegates and state Senate (four from each party and each chamber) and eight citizens.
Virginia now has become the first state in the South to create a bipartisan redistricting commission to draw electoral district lines, according to FairMapsVA, which led the campaign for redistricting reform.
This offers a welcome solution to the festering problem of partisan gerrymandering. Every 10 years, states redraw their legislative districts based on information from the decennial U.S. Census.
Lawmakers have held sweeping power over the creation of their districts with virtually no public input — regardless of which party controlled the state Capitol. All too often, legislators drew boundaries that best benefited their political interests, not that of voters.
The bipartisan commission will open the process and bring much-needed accountability. Final approval will rest with the assembly, though lawmakers can’t alter the maps.
If there’s an impasse, the Supreme Court of Virginia will have the final say. We hope the new process will avoid costly lawsuits of the past that wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer money.
Time is of the essence. Redistricting will start next year, after Virginia receives its 2020 census figures, and in time for the fall House of Delegates elections.
Gov. Ralph Northam now needs to amend the state’s budget to include details regarding how the new redistricting process will be conducted. Commission members need to be picked, for instance, and the first public meeting should take place by Feb. 1.
Redistricting reform has been a long time in coming. We look forward to an open discussion.
Also this election season, we are pleased that Virginians backed Amendment 2, which will let veterans of the U.S. armed forces or National Guard on 100% permanent, total and service-related disability exclude a single car or pickup truck from personal property taxes. Nearly 9 out of 10 voters endorsed the measure.
This is a small token of our great appreciation to veterans and all they do. Virginia is stronger because of the contributions made by the men and women who serve our nation.