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Editorial: Ending Gerrymandering Important to Region
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Editorial: Ending Gerrymandering Important to Region

Efforts appear dead for this session, but elections later this year provide new opportunities.

While three bills that could have reined in the runaway gerrymandering in Virginia made it through the Virginia Senate to crossover, they died on Tuesday morning in a House subcommittee, despite some vocal Republican support.

In Virginia, Democrats have won every statewide election since 2010, and notably Barack Obama won the state in 2008 by more than 52 percent of the vote. Many of these victories have been narrow. In 2009, Republicans won Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General by strong margins.

It is reasonable, given these results, to expect that representation at the state level would be approximately even, with either Republicans or Democrats holding a small advantage. Instead, Republicans control the House of Delegates 66 to 34, and the Virginia Senate 21 to 19.

There is little competition for these seats as a result.

According to OneVirginia2021, an advocacy group for ending gerrymandering, 56 candidates in the House of Delegates faced no real competition in the last general election in 2013, with 22 Democrats and 34 Republicans facing no major-party challenger. In the end, only two seats changed parties.

These same lawmakers are set to redraw the the boundaries for state legislative and congressional districts after the 2020 census, and the just-killed proposed constitutional amendments would have required that these not be motivated by partisan politics. By far the best approach would be to turn the process over to a non-partisan commission to draw boundaries in the best interests of Virginia citizens.

One of the proposals, cosponsored by Sen. Jill Vogel (R) and Sen. Janet Howell (D), passed the Senate 31-9, but died in the House subcommittee on a 5-2 vote.

It matters more here in Northern Virginia. Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, which means that localities have only the power specifically given to them by the General Assembly. It means that the economic engines of the state in Northern Virginia provide most of the financial wherewithal but citizens in Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County are often unable to govern themselves as they wish because of control by a far more conservative General Assembly.

Real change starts locally. Anyone seeking change should tune in for this year’s elections in Virginia, including all the seats in the General Assembly, plus Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General. Every voter will choose one Virginia Senator and one member of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Nonpartisan redistricting could support the best interests of the population, not the politicians.

In 2016:

Hillary Clinton (D) 1,981,473 (49.75%); Donald Trump (R) 1,769,443 (44.43%)

In 2013:

McAuliffe (D) 1,069,789; Cuccinelli (R) 1,013,389

Northam (D) 1,213,155; Jackson (R) 980,257

Herring (D) 1,103,777; Obenshain (R) 1,103,612

In 2012:

Obama (D) 1,971,820; Romney (R) 1,822,522

Kaine (D) 2,010,067; Allen (R) 1,785,542

2009

Bob McDonnell (R) 1,163,651; (58.61%); Creigh Deeds 818,950, (41.25%)

William T. "Bill" Bolling (R) 1,106,793 (56.51%); Jody M. Wagner (D) 850,111 (43.4%)

Ken T. Cuccinelli II (R) 1,124,137 (57.51%); Stephen C. Shannon (D) 828,687 (42.39%)

2008

Obama (D) 1,959,532 (52.62%); McCain (R) 1,725,005 (46.33%)

Mark Warner (D) 2,369,327 (65%) Gilmore (R) 1,228,830 (33.72%)

— Mary Kimm

mkimm@connectionnewspapers.com