ROANOKE, Va. – This Fall, Virginia voters will not only be casting a presidential ballot at the polls but also voting on how leaders draw our political districts.
Amendment One is a yes or no question that some see as the solution to gerrymandering and others see as worsening the problem.
But in the Roanoke Valley, some of our local politicians are crossing the aisle in the hopes you’ll vote yes this fall.
On Wednesday night, progressive Democrats gathered virtually for a discussion with FairMapsVA, an organization promoting Amendment One. Roanoke Delegate Sam Rasoul took center stage, sharing why people should care about it.
“Gerrymandering and the ability to be able to draw these districts in such a way that would so disproportionately skew things," Rasoul said.
Virginia’s political districts are drawn every ten years on the census by the General Assembly, typically favoring the party in power. And every time new lines are drawn, the minority party challenges them, saying the new districts are unfair.
“And one of the most impactful things that we do as legislators is draw lines and nearly every redistricting that comes through has some amount of litigation," Rasoul said.
The amendment itself says:
Should the Constitution of Virginia be amended to establish a redistricting commission, consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth, that is responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts that will be subsequently voted on, but not changed by, the General Assembly and enacted without the Governor’s involvement and to give the responsibility of drawing districts to the Supreme Court of Virginia if the redistricting commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to enact districts by certain deadlines?
It boils down to a 16 member commission, half citizens and half bi-partisan legislators. They would draw the lines and if they fail to get the General Assembly’s approval, the state Supreme Court would decide.
“Everyone’s in favor of it on my committee, we considered this at our August meeting and we unanimously recommended a yes vote," Roanoke Republican Committee Chair Charlie Nave said.
Republicans across the state support it, but Democrats are split because Nave said they’re poised to benefit this time around. Numerous other Democrats are a part of the group Fair Districts, Vote No on #1 including former state and congressional candidate Jennifer Lewis.
“Virginians are being sold a bill of goods on Amendment 1. They’ve been told this would end gerrymandering when actually it would completely destroy transparency in the redistricting process and make eight legislative leaders into political Gods by granting them complete power to rig district lines as much as they want. We have found that the more we educate voters on the amendment, the more they realize it’s a giant step backward from the goals of independent, nonpartisan redistricting to end gerrymandering,” said Trevor Southerland, Senior Advisor to Fair Districts.
Nave said this is the time to unify and move forward with the system.
“This measure tries to take the redistricting function away from politicians to a certain extent and put it in the hands of some other people who might have cooler heads," Nave said.