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June 30, 2020 · OPINION

Va. Democrats should stick with redistricting reform

By Roger Chesley
Virginia Mercury

Just months before voters in the commonwealth choose whether to reduce the blatant gerrymandering that arises every 10 years during redistricting, many Virginia Democrats are now saying, “Never mind.”

Shame on them. 

The process to get such a referendum before voters has been a long, tortuous one, with frequent setbacks because state lawmakers in the majority feared losing control of a rigged process. Republicans benefited in 2011, but Democrats, too, have rejected a fair drawing of district lines in previous decades. 

When it comes to wielding power and putting your opponents in a bind, Democrats and Republicans are equal opportunity offenders. They’d rather choose their voters, instead of voters choosing them.

All of that was supposed to change following this year’s U.S. Census and the redistricting that follows in 2021. State lawmakers in the 2019 and 2020 sessions passed a measure setting up a 16-member, bipartisan commission to reconfigure the congressional and legislative lines. 

But in between the two sessions – following the fall 2019 state elections – control of the General Assembly chambers shifted from the GOP to the Democrats.

Then in late June, the Democratic Party of Virginia urged that voters in November oppose a proposed constitutional amendment to create the redistricting panel. The Virginia Mercury’s Graham Moomaw reported the resolution passed overwhelmingly in a package of policy positions as part of the Dems’ state virtual convention.

It’s true some Democratic legislators were lukewarm on the proposal even before the 2019 elections. Del. Lamont Bagby, chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus from Henrico, was one. 

“It was evident that African Americans weren’t fully considered . . . . And Republicans were taking advantage of individuals that just wanted to get something passed that was said to be redistricting reform,” he said in October 2019. And earlier this year, House Democrats were deeply divided over the amendment.  

However, it’s hypocritical to claim to support fair, compact districts and then oppose the amendment that will be on the ballot this November. Just because some provisions aren’t to Democrats’ liking doesn’t mean legislators or voters should jettison the proposal. 

Here’s why.

Yes, redistricting is a process in which it’s difficult to remove all partisanship. Eight of the panel’s members will be state lawmakers, after all; eight will be citizen members. Gamesmanship can happen in the proposed format – and probably will. 

The commission, however, has to follow the federal Voting Rights Act, which tries to preserve minority voting power. Legislators who previously only cared about protecting themselves, fellow incumbents and the majority party will have to contend with a new playing field.

Besides, the 2011 redistricting in Virginia was repeatedly challenged in court, wasting time and money. There’s no guarantee the new bipartisan panel wouldn’t face legal tests, but those questions would probably occur before any redistricting plan is approved.

If voters end up rejecting the proposal in November, we’re back to Square One. Legislative progress in Virginia rarely happens all at once. In my 23 years here, I can think of issues like red-light cameras, allowing released felons to vote and decriminalization of marijuana – but not legalization – among those that bounce around the General Assembly for years. 

The slow-moving incrementalism drives me nuts. Why can’t lawmakers do what’s right and just the first time? 

That’s part of the Virginia Way, I guess.

Republicans have a right to cry foul if the redistricting proposal fails. Democrats might regret it when they’re not in the majority. It’s all the more reason to have foresight – and equity. 

There’s an old saw that “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” The referendum before voters won’t bring utopia to the state every 10 years, but it’s decidedly fairer than what’s in place. It should produce candidates who have to truly listen to their constituents – instead of cake-walking to victory every two years (state House) or four (state Senate). 

That’s better for all Virginians, no matter their party.

It’s something Democrats should consider. 

Veteran columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the Daily Press in Newport News and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk from 1997 through 2018.
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Jeffersonian American · August 23, 2020 at 8:25 am
Democrats in Virginia and across the nation have far more serious and fatal flaws to overcome than just their usual redistricting shenanigans.

Witness our truly ugly, nasty, local Democrats of the Domestic Terrorist Black Lives Matter and Antifa crowd gathering every Saturday morning in Warrenton's Courthouse Square at 10 AM to frighten and terrorize countless unsuspecting local visitors, Fauquier elderly citizens and local parents with innocent young children taking a walk or running errands (or heaven forbid- trying to run an urgent Saturday morning errand at The Fauquier Bank, which I noticed had their entrance doors surrounded Saturday morning as I ran errands myself in town). What I witnessed of these ugly, Goth-looking, BLM / ANTIFA sign-carrying Domestic Terrorists in Courthouse Square on Saturday morning makes the old Ku Klux Klan look like a church choir. Isn't it curious how our local intrepid news reporters and local newspapers refuse to cover or show pictures of any of these Domestic Terrorist gatherings as an ugly blemish and stain in the heart of our community every Saturday Morning in Courthouse Square at 10 AM? Just imagine the local and national news coverage if these same Democrats in downtown Warrenton, Virginia wore Klu Klux Klan robes or carried Nazi flags in their rally instead- the same kind of hatred under other guises- that's all. They are otherwise indistinguishable in their tactics and beliefs. Zero local news coverage of this, imagine that? And we can't show pictures of the 2009 Fauquier County 250th Anniversary Parade or the 2010 Town of Warrenton Bicentennial Parade or Heritage Day or any other special programs now banned for showing too many Virginia and Confederate States of America flags, right? That must be the cause of it all!

As for the alleged defendant in the photograph, if he is found guilty in a court of law, he should face the Electric Chair. This will require our Thinking Citizens to vote in November to begin to return return Virginia back to a stricter Law and Order State as it was earlier in my lifetime. The 2020 Democrat Party Platform linked below wants to ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY, empty our jails and abolish Law Enforcement as we Americans have known it for over two centuries, among other horrors rehashed from the 1963 Communist Manifesto. Don't believe me? Just read the JOEBIDEN.COM 2020 Democrat Party Platform below.

The Biden-Sanders unity task force recommendations are laced with words about American inequity, massive control over neighborhoods, and how they plan to negatively impact every single job in the country. Biden has plans to financially bail out every poorly-run city, new gun confiscation programs, and expanded rights for illegal aliens. This is not a people’s movement because the people and our U.S. and Virginia Constitutions have nothing to do with it. It’s a top-down centralized government that Karl Marx would be proud of.

https://joebiden.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/UNITY-TASK-FORCE-RECOMMENDATIONS.pdf
Tony Bentley · July 13, 2020 at 10:35 am
AP - My Mom died in 2013. A--hole!
AmericanPatriot · July 11, 2020 at 9:04 pm
Poor Tony - when you come to a debate, bring your mom.
Tony Bentley · July 9, 2020 at 12:21 am
Bag of food stamps? People don't use "food stamps" any longer smart man. It's call the SNAP program and it uses a prepaid card. Geez, the least you do AP is keep up when comes to insults.
Tony Bentley · July 8, 2020 at 10:39 pm
AP - "That word 'intelligent' you throw around like a bag of food stamps, doesn't mean what your think it means, Tony."

Tell me old great and wise one, what is your definition of intelligent? When you discovered your older sister was really your mother.
AmericanPatriot · July 8, 2020 at 12:50 pm
That word 'intelligent' you throw around like a bag of food stamps, doesn't mean what your think it means, Tony.

I will take the republican stance on the CRA over your Robert Byrd KKK version any time.
AmericanPatriot · July 8, 2020 at 12:49 pm
Democrats will always work with illegal voting, illegal counting and whatever else works to throw elections. They can't win honest elections, and they have no valid arguments.

Truly despicable people
Tony Bentley · July 7, 2020 at 8:33 pm
Posted elsewhere by AmericanPatriot but I changed it to make it intelligent:

"Republicans will never own their past, or their present.

It's quite embarrassing. Fortunately for them, they have a mindless horde of morons who will eat anything served up by FOX NEWS."

Hey Pete, how's life in at the bottom of the evolution chain?
AmericanPatriot · July 4, 2020 at 3:48 pm
Threats from people like you are adorable.
AmericanPatriot · July 4, 2020 at 12:13 pm
Says the leader of the karens. Do you have ANY self awareness? Or do the opioids erase all that?
AmericanPatriot · July 3, 2020 at 5:06 pm
Tony the drama queen.
Tony Bentley · July 3, 2020 at 3:17 pm
FairandBalanced - Be careful, Sonny Day might get out of his MINI-VAN and point a loaded gun at you, that's how those scared "extreme conservative" TYPES roll these days.
Tony Bentley · July 3, 2020 at 3:15 pm
491 cases of absentee ballot fraud out of LITERALLY BILLIONS OF VOTES. Those are pretty fantastic odds that it IS NOT a problem.

"A comprehensive study of election fraud cases by Arizona State University's News21 journalism project found only 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud out of literally billions of votes cast in U.S. elections since 2000.

But, rare or not, if we were to move to vote-by-mail, would that significantly increase the risk of voter fraud?

Probably not, according to the Heritage Foundation's data. The think tank compiles a database of reported instances of voter fraud or election fraud. It lists 1,277 "proven instances of voter fraud" in the 50 states over decades, dating back to 1979. The database caveats that it does not purport to be an "exhaustive or comprehensive list." But given its repeatedly expressed concerns about voter fraud in general and mail ballot fraud in particular, it seems unlikely it would leave out many reported instances of that kind of fraud.

The database includes many categories of the types of voter fraud involved: Registration fraud, voter impersonation fraud, illegal "assistance" at the polls, etc. But only some are relevant to the specific concerns about mailed ballots: "Fraudulent use of absentee ballots" and "vote buying."

If widespread use of mail ballots truly did engender fraud, one would expect that the instance of such kinds of fraud would be lower in the 16 states that strictly regulated absentee balloting as opposed to the 28 states, which allowed anyone to vote absentee ("no excuse" absentee voting states) or the five states that automatically mailed ballots to all voters for them to mail back or drop off ("vote-by-mail" states).

Instead, the opposite is true. An examination of the Heritage Foundation database for the period 2000-2020 shows that reported instances of such fraud per capita are actually higher in "strict" states than either "no excuse" states or complete "vote by mail" states.

For these types of fraud, within the 29 "no-excuse" absentee states, there was one reported fraud case for every 2.4 million persons. This compared favorably to one such case for every 1.6 million persons in "vote by mail" states, and even more favorably than the strict states, with one fraud case for every 740,000 persons. Although mail ballot fraud was by no means frequent in any of the states, it was actually more common in the states that took the stricter, more Trump-favored approach.

It is true that pure vote-by-mail states had a slightly higher rate than no-excuse states, potentially aiding the argument that more mail ballots leads to more fraud. But the vote-by-mail rate was only 1.5 times that of the no-excuse rate, while the strict states' rate was twice that of vote-by-mail, and over three times that of no-excuse states. This doesn't seem consistent with the notion that liberalizing mail voting increases fraud.

The 2000-2020 period was chosen to address the risk that the database was more "spotty" the further back in time one went. But the same relationship among the three types of states holds true when you go all the way back to 1979, the database's earliest reported instance of fraud.

Obviously, this doesn't prove causation. It doesn't seem plausible that restricting access to absentee ballots increases mail ballot fraud. But the data, taken from a leader in the "mail balloting leads to fraud" camp, certainly seems to undercut the assertion that increasing access to mail ballots will significantly increase the rate of voter fraud.

This should not be surprising. States have long experience with checking the provenance of absentee ballots. They check to make sure that the voters sending in the ballot are properly registered, for one thing. And they compare the signature on the absentee ballot with the voter signature on file, for another.

Nor is it the case that there is no time to switch to mail balloting for the November election. About nine states have already done so this year, with more likely on the way. Ohio even switched to mail voting for its presidential primary in the past month, with only a few weeks' lead time.

There are many good reasons to move to mail balloting in this pandemic year. There don't seem to be any good reasons not to. And vote fraud certainly isn't one of them."
badelectronics · July 2, 2020 at 7:28 pm
Sonny Day = Butt Hurt.
Linda Ward · July 1, 2020 at 4:16 pm
Sonny Day - Why should Tony any research when he has you to do it for him? lol
Tony Bentley · July 1, 2020 at 9:13 am
Pete- Proof? Making a blanket statement without proof is worse than making no statement at all.

Welcome to the United States of ‘Idiocracy’.
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