This is our first session update and we’ve got some really good news and some action items. We’ve been laying low for a bit to let the new majorities in the General Assembly get their sea legs and work out some details on redistricting reform. They’ve mostly done that, and we’re entering into a much more active phase of session for us as advocates. (Of course, we’ve been working aggressively behind the scenes, too, but this will be much bigger.)
Good news in the Senate! We are pleased with the progress being made in the Senate. Senators Lucas, Locke, and Barker have led the charge to pass SJ18 and SB203 (which now incorporates SB204) to pass the Senate Privileges & Elections Committee yesterday. The vote was bipartisan and overwhelming – as this issue should be. We expect full passage in the Senate by Friday or Monday. If you talk with your Senator, thank them for their support.
More work to do in the House? While the Senate reform will cross over to the House of Delegates on Feb 11, the House is just getting to some of the redistricting bills tomorrow (Thursday). While they overwhelmingly supported the amendment last year, this year it’s stalling a bit. They have until Feb 20th to act on the amendment (HJ71) and until Feb 11th to act on the enabling legislation (HB758). Of course, they will also receive the package the Senate passes.
What’s the problem? Political dynamics are always changing. Now that Democrats control both legislative chambers, alternatives to last year’s bipartisan redistricting amendment have emerged. And to be clear: there are some good ideas in these plans, but ultimately these alternatives would still allow the General Assembly to amend or completely substitute in gerrymandered maps for anything the advisory commission would do. This looks awfully similar to the backstop of the original House Republican proposal last year (HJ615). The constitutional amendment is better because it would stop the General Assembly from having such power to amend the maps.
What can I do? Now is the time to speak up. While the quick action form is available here, we’ve found that a personalized, thoughtful email is far more effective. (Click here to find the email addressfor your Delegate. Not sure who it is? Check here.) Make sure to reference the specific bills: SJ18 and SB203 in the Senate and HJ71 and HB758 in the House.
- Email your Delegate, tell them to support the redistricting amendment.
- Phone your Delegate, tell them to support the redistricting amendment.
- Post on Facebook groups about your support for the amendment. Since there’s a lot of misinformation out there, combating it with facts and expert opinions (the alternative side is notably missing experts) is imperative.
- Join our phone banking effort in partnership with RepresentUS to export the activism. We’re calling redistricting reform supporters in key districts and asking them to contact their legislators as well.
Thank you for your support. Thank you for taking action!
Here are some common objections to the amendment and some information for how to respond. Also, please see our list of major endorsements here and a fact sheet that’s useful. You can also find tons of editorial support and all articles about the amendment in the News section of the website.
What about SCOVA? There have been a number of blog posts fear mongering about our state supreme court. If you need a refutation of those fears, please see the following:
- Op-ed by SCOVA expert, Greg Lucyk
- Rep. Don Beyer’s endorsement of the amendment, in which he specifically mentions the SCOVA concern
- Seven law and college professors from Virginia – all experts in redistricting and voting rights – endorsing the amendment and addressing the SCOVA concern
What about Minority Representation? This was one of the loudest concerns raised last February when the amendment passed. It’s also the one that we’ve taken the most seriously, given Virginia’s horrible track record on the matter. We got the advice of national and state experts in redistricting and voting rights to ensure diversity and minority representation at every stage in the process. That’s resulted in the great bill that Senators Lucas and Locke are carrying, SB203, as enabling legislation to the amendment. These are important protections on top of the already historic move to put minority protections into the constitution itself. For a fuller discussion on the matter, please see this piece written by Justin Levitt, law professor and former Obama DOJ attorney specializing in voting rights.
Couldn’t the enabling legislation be repealed by a future legislature? Yes, it could. So could any of the alternative bills passed this legislative session. Which is why it’s so important to have the constitutional amendment to enshrine transparency, citizens with a seat at the table, a balanced commission that eliminates partisan gerrymandering, and the historic protections for minority communities regarding districting. Those cannot be repealed without starting the whole amendment process again. For a more robust discussion on mid-decade redistricting and why the amendment is needed, please see this piece in The Fulcrum.
PO Box 1054
Richmond, VA 23218