Relaxed residency rule
could improve redistricting
The Virginia Redistricting Commission has the potential to strengthen representative democracy in the commonwealth. Unfortunately, this body still is putting incumbent interests ahead of voters' interests in one small respect: by taking into consideration where incumbents reside in drawing proposed districts.
The commission would not have been tempted to compromise its integrity in this manner if the Constitution of Virginia did not require that senators and delegates live in the districts they represent, a requirement that also can be abused by purposely drawing districts to force allied incumbents to campaign against each other, move or withdraw from public service.
The General Assembly should propose amending the constitution to relax the residency requirement. For example, candidates could be allowed to run in adjacent districts, rather than being limited to the districts in which they reside. Voters still would have the option of penalizing resident-adjacent candidates, but voters also could choose candidates whom they prefer who live near the districts the candidates would represent.
Reforming the constitution to relax the residency requirement would expand the pool of potential candidates in each district, increasing the likelihood that the most capable, talented politicians would have the opportunity to serve. This reform also would end one distorting influence on the redistricting process.