Redistricting FAQ

Why LWV-VA Supports Constitutional Amendment S.J. 18 to End Partisan Gerrymandering 

What is independent redistricting and why is it needed? Redistricting is the process of drawing maps to determine election districts for members of Congress and the state legislature. In many states, the legislature wields the power to draw these maps. When one party controls this process, it can rig the maps to stay in power by choosing the electorate in each district (“gerrymandering”). 

Gerrymandering weakens voters’ voices. It carves up communities, removes competition, increases polarization, and creates gridlock. Redistricting works better when voters get more of a say. 

Why Virginia needs a Constitutional Amendment now for fair redistricting. Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s constitution gives only legislators the power to draw the election maps. Only a constitutional amendment can change the constitution and let citizens serve on a redistricting commission. A mere law (legislation) cannot amend the constitution. 

Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment (“CA”) to establish a better way: a commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. 

Timing is critical. Redistricting in Virginia usually occurs only once every ten years. In order to enact the amendment before the next ten-year redistricting in early 2021, the constitutional amendment must pass again this legislative session and then go before voters on the ballot in November. 

Why the League of Women Voters of Virginia supports the Constitutional Amendment, SJ 18 / HJ 71

  • The Amendment gives citizens a voice in the Virginia redistricting process for the first time. Protectionist maps help legislators keep their seats. Citizens don’t have that conflict of interest. 
  • The Amendment for the first time requires that lines be drawn in accordance with specific “laws that address racial and ethnic fairness,” avoiding harm to our communities and Virginia. 
  • Redistricting decisions will be brought into the light, not hidden away in dark, secret backrooms. 

What do the accompanying bills do? 

  • Senate bill 203 creates criteria for drawing maps, such as ensuring the votes of racial or language minorities are not diluted, preserving communities of interest, and avoiding lines that favor parties or politicians or divide towns. 
  • Senate bill 204 directs the Court to appoint a citizen “special master” to assist in redistricting. 

Shouldn’t we try for a better commission, without legislators? This is the only amendment available to be passed this year, before the decennial redistricting and the next House election. We need to pass it while the window of opportunity is open. 

Should voters be concerned about Virginia’s Supreme Court? Accompanying legislation (SB204) requires the court to appoint a citizen special master to draw the maps. Virginia’s justices are bound by canons of judicial ethics and were appointed by Democrat, as well as Republican, controlled legislative chambers. 

Who supports S.J. 18? Respected voices include the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Senator Tim Kaine and Rep. Don Beyer, and the editorial boards of the Richmond Times-Daily and the Virginian-Pilot. Importantly, 70% of Virginians support redistricting reform, according to a recent poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University in Virginia. 

The eyes of the nation are on Virginia. Without the constitutional amendment, the very next statehouse election, in 2021, could bring in a legislature that would reverse any mere laws. An amendment is the only vehicle strong enough to start real change and ensure fair elections. 

The League of Women Voters of Virginia stands up for voters. 

The League fully supports SJ 18 and HJ 71. 

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Jan 12, 2020 Action Alert: Fair Redistricting, No Excuse Absentee Voting, & Gun Violence Prevention

Virginia’s legislative session is underway! Contact your lawmakers now to support fair redistricting, no excuse absentee voting, and gun violence prevention. You can modify your message before sending.

To review the bills: 

🔸 Fair redistricting        SJ 18, SB 203, 204 / HJ 71, HB 758

🔸 No excuse absentee voting  SB 45, 111, 879 / HB 1, 25, 27

🔸 Gun violence prevention     SB 70 , 240 / HB 2, 674

For more info: 

🔸 Redistricting

🔸 No Excuse Absentee Voting, p.4 

🔸 Gun Violence Prevention

Alternatively, visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov for your lawmaker’s contact information and then email them a request to support these bills. Let them know you are a constituent, and your address. You can note points such as:

🔸 The fair redistricting amendment, SJ18 / HJ71, will finally give citizens a voice and add racial and ethnic fairness. 

– The guardrail bills, SB 203 & 204 / HB 758, make it even stronger. 

– Only an amendment can change the constitution. A law doesn’t have that power.

🔸 Voting is every citizen’s honor and responsibility. Being required to state an excuse for absentee voting deters voters. Please copatron and vote for no excuse absentee voting bills SB 45, 111, 859, 879 / HB 1, HB 25, HB 27.

🔸 We need common sense gun safety. Please especially cosponsor and vote for SB 70 / HB 2, for universal background checks, and SB240 / HB 674, extreme risk protection order / red flag legislation.

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Dec 30, 2019 Contact Your Legislators: Support Fair Redistricting

Now is the time to add your voice for the Equal Rights Amendment.

The League of Women Voters of the U.S. supports the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”), as set forth in this letter.

Please contact your lawmakers now for the ERA.

🔸 Virginia legislation: HJ 1, SJ 1, & SJ 5

🔸 Questions? See the U.S. League letter

🔸 Newly elected legislator? See “Special Cases” below

🔸 All others, click here to support the ERA

Alternatively, visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov for your lawmaker’s contact information and then email them a request to support the ERA this session. Let them know you are a constituent, and your address. You can point out:

  • Virginia General Assembly bills for ratification of the ERA are HJ 1 and SJ 1.
  • 80% of Virginia’s registered voters support ratification, according to a poll by the Wason Center for Public Policy, https://cnu.edu/wasoncenter/surveys/2019-12-16/
  • The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee equal rights without discrimination based on sex. The Equal Rights Amendment will help ensure that the government discriminates based on sex only when it has compelling reasons. As stated by the American Bar Association, this will “assure that gender equality is recognized as a fundamental, irrevocable right protected by the highest law of the land.”
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Dec 17, 2019 Contact Your Legislators: Support Fair Redistricting

Contact Your Legislators: Support Fair Redistricting 

 

Fair elections are under threat, and all of us are needed at this moment in history. Please contact your lawmakers to support the redistricting amendment. You can click through here to send them a message you can modify before sending. 

 

Alternatively, visit whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov for your lawmaker’s contact information. Then, email them a request to vote for the redistricting amendment this session. Let them know you are a constituent and your address. 

 

Talking points:

 

  • This amendment is the first time citizens will be on the redistricting commission. Only an amendment can change the constitutional provision that lawmakers (not citizens) draw districts. 

 

  • An amendment must be passed two years in a row, and this is the last chance to get one in place before 2021.

 

  • 70% of Virginians support the second passage of the redistricting reform amendment, according to a poll from the Wason Center for Public Policy, and Mason-Dixon Polling shows 72% of registered Virginia voters support the proposed amendment.
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Reapportionment and Redistricting

Current Activities Shining a Light- link currently unavailable.  This is a new report from the League of Women Voters of the United States providing a summary of Redistricting “lessons learned” and “kudos earned” during 2011. The League of Women Voters of the United States is requesting your comments on this document on their Facebook Page or at their Blog Shining

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Redistricting Archives

2015 Redistricting Reform Heats Up – To read LWV Fairfax’s October update of the latest Virginia lawsuits click here. Redistricting/Reapportionment: The Current Status – To read LWV Falls Church’s concise background information on the situation in Virginia click here. Redistricting Lawsuit Based Upon Virginia’s Constitution – To read the text of the suit, click here. Third Congressional District Comments Submitted

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Redistricting in Virginia

Redistricting remains an ongoing issue in Virginia. The League of Women Voters of Virginia has been very active in efforts to bring about a nonpartisan process for drawing legislative lines by a commission as described by the Redistricting Coalition of Virginia, formed in 2010 and of which LWV-VA is a member organization. LWV-VA has participated with the Coalition in educating

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March Virginia Voter

The Virginia Voter

Hot off the presses” is your copy of the Virginia Voter.

In this issue you will find: 

  • Secret Agents of Change
  • Your Help Needed in the Push for Redistricting
  • Virginia General Assembly: February 2020; Pre-Crossover,  Crossover and Post-Crossover
  • League Day Recap
  • Save the Date for LWV-VA Council!
  • What Sparks Political Activity?
  • March 3 President Primary FAQ
  • Report on Human Rights Legislation in this Year’s General Assembly Session
  • Join the Celebration!
  • Deaf History Month March 13th – April 15th.
  • Some Special Photos from This Legislative Session
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Jan 19, 2020 Calls to Action

Week of January 20-25

Tip: Are you on facebook? Join the League’s Advocacy discussion group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/373903886296976/ & answer the questions. 

☎️☎️☎️ Remember to log your advocacy! A little competition makes it fun. Click here to be counted for your Local League: http://bit.ly/LogYourAdvocacy ☎️☎️☎️

Privileges & Elections (“P&E”) Committees 

House P&E / Elections Subcommittee

Topic: no excuse absentee voting

Date: Tues, Jan. 21, 7 AM

Location: House Room 1

Senate P&E Committee

Topic: campaign finance reform, voting rights, efficient elections, the ERA (on crossover), and gender equality.

Date:  Tues, Jan. 21, 15 minutes after Senate adjournment (approx. 2 PM)

Location: Senate Room 3, the Capitol, Richmond 

Livestream Video should be available during and after the hearing at this link: http://virginia-senate.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3

Contact

What to Say 

if you are a constituent, mention that and state your name and address. 

Please use your own words. Ideas below. We suggest one or two topics per contact. You may also sign up here to join other League members for a preparatory briefing and visits to legislators on League Day.

No excuse absentee voting

“Please copatron and pass no excuse absentee voting so people will not need to name a reason for voting absentee, which can deter voting. Please cosponsor and vote for HB 1, 25, 208 & 209 / SB 111. Thank you.”

Campaign finance reform

“Please copatron and vote for the campaign finance bills in the P&E Committee this week, Senate Bills 25, 166, 205, 266, 488, 889 and 979, to give you greater freedom to vote as you think is right. These bills will help ensure other legislators have to follow the same rules.”

Voting procedure

“Elections should be efficient and designed to facilitate voting. Please cosponsor and vote for Senator Ebbin’s SJ 63, which synchronizes state general elections with federal election years. It will save the state money by reducing the frequency of elections, and will expand voting because voters will see federal as well as state campaign notices during voting years.”

Redistricting

While not on the P&E docket for this week, the state League supports second passage of the Redistricting Amendment. Please urge your legislators to copatron, support, and vote for the redistricting constitutional amendment this session, HJ 71 / SJ 18, with enabling legislation, HB 758 / SB 203 & 204. Click here for a FAQ from the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

Voting rights / felons

“Please copatron and vote for SJ 14, which authorizes the General Assembly to provide by general law for the restoration of civil rights for persons convicted of a felony. The essence of our system of government is the right to vote, and that right should not be abridged.”

Racial equity

While this bill is not in committee yet for this week, schedules are still being posted and supporting it is helpful. “Please copatron and vote for HB 973, which will repeal racially discriminatory laws relating to the racial segregation of students in elementary schools, secondary schools, and institutions of higher learning. For Virginia to fully improve its future, we must clean up harmful laws of the past.”

ERA

“Please copatron and vote for the House Equal Rights Amendment resolution, HJ 1, which will be heard in Senate P&E on Tuesday. This is a crossover vote. The Constitution should provide equal treatment under law, because statutory protections can be rolled back with a simple majority vote; the Constitution is more enduring.”

Gender equity

“Every person deserves the dignity of equal treatment under law. Please copatron and vote for SJ 3 and SJ 7, which will repeal the constitutional amendment prohibiting a legal status for same sex unions. This is already invalid due to the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.”

“Please copatron and vote for Del. Plum’s SB 618, which adds gender, disability, gender identity, and sexual orientation to the categories of victims whose intentional selection for a hate crime involving assault, assault and battery, or trespass for the purpose of damaging another’s property results in a higher criminal penalty for the offense.”

☎️☎️☎️ Remember to log your advocacy! Click to be counted for your Local League: http://bit.ly/LogYourAdvocacy ☎️☎️

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WLRT Pre-Session: All In for All Issues

Martha Rollins, LWVSHR

LWV-VA President Deb Wake quickly summarized the overall message of our day of legislative issues for the upcoming General Assembly: “Public Education!” With great resolve she added, “We must get this information out.”

A record-breaking number of about 150 League members and allies met on December 4, 2019, at The John Marshall Hotel Ballroom in Richmond to grasp the array of topics for legislative action. The enthusiasm reflected the high voter turnout of the off-off-year election of the General Assembly—the members who will act on decennial redistricting.

The Pre-Session edition of the Women’s Legislative Roundtable (WLRT) continued the tradition of leading with a report of the fiscal framework. Current Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne delivered a positive report for revenue that he labeled “cautiously optimistic.” He explained that Virginia was responsive to defense spending of the federal government and finally shows benefit from the lifting of sequestration. He acknowledged high consumer confidence. He commented that 2.6% was the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia history. Secretary Layne also expressed concern for the impact of mandated expenditures, particularly the impact of Medicaid. Without upstaging the release of the Governor’s budget on December 17, Secretary Layne anticipated significant “investment” in K-12 education and higher education, as well as attention to mental health services. He also raised expectations for change in the process of the legislative branch because of new leadership and a substantial number of newly elected members in the committee structure. 

The Issues Slam began with Edgar Arando Yanoc’s pitch on behalf of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations that our roads would be safer if driver’s licenses were issued to all drivers, including undocumented drivers. Kim Bobo of the Interfaith Center called for paid sick days for low-wage workers. Commenting that because she spends so much time in front of the Commerce and Labor Committees, she predicts passage of the modest proposal being developed by Senator Barbara Favola. Bobo noted that Virginia could be the first state in the South to support the paid leave issue. The Interfaith Center’s message to increase the minimum wage was echoed by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. Chris Duncombe said that Virginia’s minimum was the lowest comparable in the country and that over a million people would benefit.

[CONTINUE READING FROM NEWSLETTER ARTICLE HERE]

The pace of presentations roared through housing and human equality to pro-choice protection. Then Brian Koziol of the Virginia Housing Alliance noted that League legislative priorities lacked housing provisions but listed components that impacted housing, especially education and non-discrimination. LWV-VA Chair of the affordable housing study, Alice Tousignant, caught up with Koziol at the first break.

Andy Goddard, a loyal advocate for gun safety since the violence at Virginia Tech in 2007, represented the Virginia Center for Public Safety. In a carefully nuanced message, Goddard quoted a passage from Justice Antonin Scalia in the US Supreme Court decision in Heller, in support of reasonable regulation of firearms. Goddard urged support for the eight bills submitted by the administration and characterized the bills as common-sense measures that have shown a reduction of gun violence in other states. Goddard will meet safety supporters on January 20 on the steps of the Capitol at 2 P.M.

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 & Deb Wake, President LWV-VA

As the speakers’ lineup reached the last third, Susan Burk of the American Association of University Women, commented that she felt as though she was “speed dating with policy wonks.” Danny Plaugher from the Virginia Transit Association packed the most information of the day into one message. Overall, he called for sustainable funding. Brian Cannon of OneVA2021 raised the cheering level in the ballroom to celebrate how far the fair redistricting proposal has come and he carefully outlined the steps remaining, including passage of a constitutional amendment establishing a commission, criteria legislation, and ratification at the ballot box in the 2020 general election on November 3.

In the home stretch, Katie Hornung, VAratifyERA. rocked the ballroom. Everyone knew what she would say, and she did. In the 100th Anniversary Year of gaining the right of women to vote, the Equal Rights Amendment will be ratified by Virginia, the 38th state to ratify, and the last state necessary for ratification. Hornung instructed all to contact their delegates and senators by January 1st. She invited all to the Capitol to welcome the Assembly on January 8 and to participate in the Women’s Summit, Welcome Lineup, and Party for Parity.

Key reports on election process came from Allison Robbins, President of the Voter Registrars of Virginia; Megan Rhyne, Virginia Coalition for Open Government (VCOG); and Chris Piper, Commissioner of Elections. Rhyne recognized the role of the League in the founding of VCOG. She acknowledged that “WE ARE STILL WATCHING.”

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU), delivered a vigorous account of the importance of our fundamental right to vote. She noted that Virginia ranked second in a recent university study as the hardest state in which to vote. She explained that the best way to overcome disenfranchisement of people convicted of a felony is to adopt a state constitutional amendment. The ACLU is developing tool kits to mobilize PeoplePower to remove arbitrary barriers to voting. She reviewed the Reconstruction to Jim Crow legacy of voting in Virginia with multiple examples. She fielded questions with a clear vision of effective engagement in the upcoming legislative session.

LWV-VA’s Advocacy team sent us homeward with the League’s priority list for legislation and the schedule for 8:30 A.M. Wednesday morning sessions of WLRT at SunTrust Center. The team reminded us to stay connected: Julia Tanner, Advocacy; Carol Noggle and Mary Crutchfield, Legislative Coordinators; and Carolyn Caywood, Facebook.

Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia (ACLU)

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