Our society doesn’t allow citizens to choose juries for their own court cases, or scientists to pick their own peer-review committees, and we shouldn’t let legislators cherry-pick their own voters. Letting legislators draw their own voting districts is a serious fox-guarding-the-henhouse problem because possibly as much as party politics, personal career interests drive legislators to lock in their seats by gerrymandering.
To correct racial gerrymandering in our House of Delegates voting districts, Governor Northam has called a special session of the Virginia legislature. But Virginia legislators have a poor track record for correcting gerrymandered voting maps. In 2015, a federal court had to appoint a special master to remedy a similar situation because our legislators couldn’t adequately resolve it.
Now, in 2018, the Governor should reach across party lines to endorse Senator Emmett Hanger’s proposed redistricting commission. This independent, bi-partisan commission would have less interest in rigging elections for our legislators and more interest in bringing Virginia’s voting districts into compliance with the Voting Rights Act. It would also provide a pilot study in preparation for permanent reforms to Virginia’s redistricting process needed for 2021, when all voting districts will be redrawn using data from the 2020 U.S. census. Defending and appealing multiple racial and political gerrymandering court cases continues to cost Virginians millions in tax dollars, and we’re still left with rigged voting districts. It’s time to find a better solution to the old fox/hen house problem.
JoAnn Kennedy Flanagan
OneVirginia2021 member in Fairfax