Commission Testimony by Deb Wake, President, League of Women Voters of Virginia
Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, testified at the Virginia Redistricting Commission hearing for the Northern Virginia region held July 27 at George Mason University. Deb’s testimony on behalf of the League –
“Good afternoon members of the Redistricting Commission. I’m Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. I represent nearly 2200 members and 14 Leagues across the state. We are a grassroots organization with no paid staff at the local or state level but are staffed by volunteers committed to a more just democracy. Just hours after this hearing, our members will have produced and uploaded a blog to update readers on the process of the commission. Some members will also participate in today’s hearing, as they have in many hearings, as private citizens who are actively participating in our democracy.
The League began to pay attention to redistricting back in the 1950s and began to advocate in 1983 when our members supported a more equitable map-drawing process. Ten years ago, we partnered with law professor Rebecca Green, at William & Mary, to sponsor a contest for student-drawn maps to show that it is possible to produce maps that give better representation to voters than the gerrymandered maps put forward by whichever majority party had the privilege to draw the new lines. Our members knocked on doors, sent postcards, and contacted their legislators to pass the amendment creating a citizen-led redistricting commission. We thank you for your commitment to creating maps that lift up the voices of diverse communities and puts the power back into the hands of voters. Virginia often, to our shame, led the country in suppressing the voices of women and minorities, especially Black people. Fairly drawn maps are the first step in assuring representation to all voters in the Commonwealth.
District maps have been a tug-of-war between political parties and a power-grab from the voters who should have been the true holders of that power. We urge the commission to start fresh when drawing the maps. Now is the best opportunity to start with a level playing field and give the highest priority to communities of interest who have often been ignored. We challenge commissioners to work to keep voter-representation at the fore and not addresses of incumbent legislators.
DLS staff support you every day and work tirelessly when the general assembly is in session. No one questions their integrity or intentions. We urge you to hold the partisan firms you have employed to a similar expectation and produce the best nonpartisan maps possible.
Thank you again for your service to voters in the Commonwealth.”