Virginia Voters Approve Bipartisan Redistricting Commission

November 4, 2020 by Dan McCue
Downtown Alexandria, Va. (Photo by Dan McCue)

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia Voters last night approved an amendment to the state constitution that will create a bipartisan redistricting commission, putting an end, once and for all, to years of court battles over partisan gerrymandering.

With 98% of election precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, 65.8% of voters endorsed the redistricting commission, while 34.2% voted no.

The measure, which takes the task of drawing the state’s congressional and legislative district lines out of the hands of the state legislature and places it in the hands of a commission comprised of state legislators and appointed citizens, was not without its critics before the vote.

In fact, the proposal divided the state’s Democratic Party leadership some of whom were looking forward to having the chance to draw maps favorable to their candidates after more than a decade of Republican gerrymandering.

As in most states, congressional and state legislative districts in the Commonwealth are redrawn every 10 years after the completion of the U.S. Census, and in the past, that job was undertaken by the legislature.

The amendment approved by the voters on Tuesday, would create a panel of eight citizens and eight legislators, with an even split between Democrats and Republicans.

If the group is deadlocked, the state Supreme Court would step in to try to resolve it.

Virginia’s current district maps were drawn by a special master after federal courts repeatedly found Republicans in the legislature had unconstitutionally drawn the maps to confine Black voters to a mere handful of districts.

Hoping to finally put years of lawsuits behind them, Republicans proposed the original redistricting commission amendment, only to see it stall.

The amendment was subsequently revised and pushed across the finish line after Democrats won full control of the state government in 2018.

“Voters have said loud and clear that they are ready to move past Virginia’s long history of gerrymandering,” said Paul Smith, vice president of Campaign Legal Center, which was a leading advocate for the proposal, supporting local partner OneVirginia 2021 throughout the process.

“After a sustained effort by a diverse coalition of national and in-state groups, legislators and the electorate have both proven that bipartisan solutions are possible when democratic principles are placed over partisanship. Paired with strong enabling legislation, the amendment will help Virginia adopt fair maps and a more inclusive process,” Smith said.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the leaders of the pro-amendment group Fair Maps VA were jubilant after it became clear the amendment had passed.

“From the start, this movement has been about putting the voices of citizens about politicians and political parties,” the leaders said. “Today, Virginia voters spoke loud and clear.”

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