Redistricting Reform Part 1:
Where We Begin
Before we begin, a word about me: I’m a political professional. I run my own company, and my career has been split between political campaigns and advocacy organizations. Unlike most people writing on this blog, I’m not a lawyer or a law student or a professor. And while I have a pretty strong understanding of this issue, my review of relevant case law may seem less than expert – my apologies.
So why would I be writing about redistricting reform? Simple: A few years ago, I was approached to manage an effort to reform Virginia’s redistricting process. It is that experience, as Executive Director of the Virginia Redistricting Coalition, which gives me my particular knowledge on the topic. As someone who had never previously worked on the issue, I was now to run an organization, develop legislation, devise a legislative strategy, and build a coalition around this topic. Now, I’d done all of these things before, to some extent, in other positions. Having previously cofounded and run a non-profit advocacy organization, I knew what I was getting into.
But to get all that done in 6 months, well that’s a bit more difficult. So I bring to this discussion the benefit of a crash course in redistricting, reform, and Virginia’s brand of the process. This blog series will be about what I learned while I ran this organization and advocated for redistricting reform.
Welcome to the Wild West
Let’s begin where I started when I got the job: The Constitution of Virginia, Article II, Section 6 (emphasis added):
Members of the House of Representatives of the United States and members of the Senate and of the House of Delegates of the General Assembly shall be elected from electoral districts established by the General Assembly. Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district. The General Assembly shall reapportion the Commonwealth into electoral districts in accordance with this section in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter.
Any such decennial reapportionment law shall take effect immediately and not be subject to the limitations contained in Article IV, Section 13, of this Constitution.
(Note: Article IV, Section 13 deals with enactment dates of new laws)
The key words are in bold. In Virginia, reapportionment is handled as if it were any other law. Let that one sink in: Any other law. [Read more…] about Redistricting Reform in Virginia