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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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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.
FairandBalanced · July 8, 2020 at 1:53 pm
hey AP, another despicable me!

Robert Redford says that he will vote for Joe Biden for president, warning in a new op ed that another four years of Donald Trump “would accelerate our slide toward autocracy.”
FairandBalanced · July 8, 2020 at 1:25 pm
Hey AP, read this!

Neil Young doesn’t usually like President Donald Trump playing his music at campaign rallies.

The rock icon has called Trump out over the issue on multiple previous occasions, most recently on Friday when three of Young’s songs were used during the president’s Independence Day celebration at Mount Rushmore.

But Young revealed in an open letter published on his website Monday that he does have one song that Trump can use.

It’s an updated version of his 2006 song “Lookin’ For A Leader” that now takes swipes at the current president and endorses presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
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
FairandBalanced · July 7, 2020 at 8:53 pm
you are the best Tony Bentley! 012121
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?
Pete Nowotny · July 6, 2020 at 8:06 am
Tony Bentley: Keep trying, boy!
FairandBalanced · July 4, 2020 at 11:01 pm
AmericanPatriot · July 4, 2020 at 3:48 pm
Threats from people like you are adorable.
FairandBalanced · July 4, 2020 at 1:51 pm
its so easy to do ap. hurl insults your way. i can do it my sleep. just stay away from the Diner or I will kick your republican ass, too.
FairandBalanced · July 4, 2020 at 1:37 pm
all he does is try to insult folks. he never addresses the issue just like his comrade leader the orange trash bag. go shoot some fireworks at yourself, ap. loser.
FairandBalanced · July 4, 2020 at 1:34 pm
does anybody know WTF ap is talking about?
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?
FairandBalanced · July 3, 2020 at 6:01 pm
yeah. the republican party is the party of karens.
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."
FairandBalanced · July 2, 2020 at 8:19 pm
if i see him at the Diner i am going out of my way to kick his republican ass!
badelectronics · July 2, 2020 at 7:28 pm
Sonny Day = Butt Hurt.
FairandBalanced · July 2, 2020 at 3:49 pm
SD you can reference all the right wing nut hack articles and authors you want (and Lloyd Billingsley is definitely a right wing nut hack, just google him) but its still just right wing nut hacking. All opinion very little fact. Wear a mask!
FairandBalanced · July 2, 2020 at 1:34 pm
And, if you follow up on his last bogus presentation you will find this! His article was written in 2016. This what was determined in 2017:

ANAHEIM ( — A grand jury released a report Monday stating voting in the November election was “flawless” in several Orange County cities.

“Allegations of voter fraud, vote rigging and illegal voters casting ballots have been found to be without merit in Orange County,” according to the grand jury’s report, which says the Registrar of Voters “continues to take a very proactive approach to improving the voting process for the citizens of Orange County.”
FairandBalanced · July 2, 2020 at 1:29 pm
With respect to his second citation here is what the IPA (Institute for Public Accuracy) has to say about the Heritage Foundation.

"The Heritage Foundation is one of our country’s most influential and oft-quoted think tanks. But its claims often seem to be based more on ideology than solid research."

Plain and simple, that one....
FairandBalanced · July 2, 2020 at 1:18 pm
I took a look at SD's "research". Here's the real truth regarding the first reference:
The problem with the case against Molina, his wife, and their 2017 campaign workers is that the DA’s office is involved. The DA’s aunt is former JP Mary Alice Palacios who apparently has at least two homes. The one she lives in north of the city, and the one in Edinburg she claims as her residence for voting purposes while approximately eight other people claim to live there as well. Closeness, ah. Her sisters have similar homes. After Molina was the mayoral seat in November 2017, Mary Alice and her insurance associates lost the city’s health insurance contract, which was estimated to cost her and her associates somewhere well north of $100,000. Not too long after that, she filed a voter-fraud claim against Molina with the state. When it landed in DA Ricardo Rodriguez’s lap, he said, fine, and handed it off to Mike Garza. Later, when asked if having Mary Alice as his aunt didn’t conflict his office, Rodriguez said, no, and besides, the state AG’s office had asked for his help. So what was he supposed to do? Say no?

Further, the last sentence in SD's citation says this!

A federal judge in February said there was no evidence of widespread election fraud in Texas after state officials incorrectly questioned the U.S. citizenship of thousand of voters.
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’.
Pete Nowotny · July 1, 2020 at 8:34 am
Democrats cheat, that's the only way they can ever win any election.
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