Redistricting Commission Sets First Meeting for January 21

The new Virginia Redistricting Commission will hold its first meeting at 5 p.m. on Thursday January 21. The main order of business will be to elect a chair from among the eight citizen members of the 16-member commission. The commission will also get an update on the expected delivery of the census data they will need to complete their job.

Information on the meeting is available by clicking here. 

–Sara Fitzgerald, LWV-VA, Falls Church

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Redistricting Commission Citizen Members

Here are further details about the eight citizens who were appointed to the Virginia Redistricting Commission on January 6, 2021. The applications can be reviewed in their entirety by clicking here. Excerpts from letters of recommendation may come from more than one letter. The regions are as defined by the Division of Legislative Services in categorizing the more than 1,200

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Eight Citizens Named to Virginia’s New Redistricting Commission

Eight citizens were chosen by a panel of retired Virginia Circuit Court judges on January 6 to fill out the membership of the new bipartisan redistricting commission created by the constitutional amendment that voters passed on their November ballots.

In a Zoomed meeting that concluded just before a mob stormed Capitol Hill, the judges selected the members from a list of 60-some names proposed by the General Assembly’s four party leaders. More than 1,200 Virginians submitted applications during the month-long filing window and each leader, as required, put forth at least 16 names. From each of those four lists, the judges worked to develop consensus on two appointments.

The judges repeatedly commented on the “impressive” and brilliant” list of applicants from which they had to choose. They also worked to appoint a slate that met statutory requirements for attention to geographic, gender and racial diversity.

The citizen group comprises six men and two women who come from Fairfax, Alexandria, Mechanicsville, Fredericksburg, Bristol, South Boston, Richmond and Virginia Beach. Four are White, two are Black or African-American, one is Asian, one is multi-racial and one is of Hispanic ethnicity. Five of the members are 52 or under, and three of the members are between the ages of 60 and 74. The citizens are evenly divided between persons who identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans.

With the eight legislators who were previously chosen by the General Assembly’s four leaders, the full 16-member commission will include 11 men and five women, 10 persons who described themselves as White (including one Hispanic) and six persons who are persons of color or multi-racial. The commission is scheduled to hold its first meeting on or before February 1, when it will choose one of the citizen members as its chair.

Citizens selected for the commission were:

Nominated by Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth:

  • James Abrenio, 37, of Fairfax, a trial lawyer.
  • Sean S. Kumar, 41, of Alexandria, a strategic advisor and lawyer.

Nominated House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax:

  • Brandon Christopher Hutchins, 39, of Virginia Beach, a military veteran and health care professional.
  • Greta J. Harris, 60, of Richmond, president and CEO of the Better Housing Coalition.

Nominated by Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment, R-James City:

  • Marvin W. Gilliam Jr., 64, of Bristol, a retired coal mining executive.
  • Richard O. Harrell III, 74, of South Boston, a trucking executive.

Nominated by House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah:

  • Jose A. Feliciano Jr., 52, of Fredericksburg, a military veteran and federal agent with the Federal Communication Commission’s Public Safety Bureau.
  • Mackenzie K. Babichenko, 36, of Mechanicsville, an assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney in Hanover County.

The previously announced legislator members are:

  • Lucas appointees: Sens. Mamie Locke of Hampton and George Barker of Fairfax
  • Filler-Corn appointees: Dels. Marcus Simon of Fairfax and Delores McQuinn of Richmond
  • Norment appointees: Sens. Steve Newman of Lynchburg and Ryan McDougle of Hanover
  • Gilbert appointees: Dels. Les Adams of Chatham and Margaret Ransone of Westmoreland

 

          Materials related to the commission’s proceedings, including the full applications of the citizen members, can be reviewed on the website of the Division of Legislative Services at Virginia Division of Legislative Services.

–Sara Fitzgerald, LWV-Falls Church

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Why Redistricting Matters

“Gerrymandering” is a method of distorting representative democracy by allowing officials to select their voters rather than voters to elect their officials. When done for purposes of racial discrimination or to ensure the dominance of one political party, gerrymandering runs counter to equal voting rights for all eligible voters. Every ten years, after receiving updated U.S. Census results, the Virginia

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Redistricting

  The Constitutional Amendment Here is the text of the amendment as passed.  [Proposed new language is underlined. Deleted old language is stricken.] Amend Section 6 of Article II of the Constitution of Virginia and amend the Constitution of Virginia by adding in Article II a section numbered 6-A as follows: ARTICLE II FRANCHISE AND OFFICERS Section 6. Apportionment. Members of

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Redistricting in Virginia

What’s New: “Communities of Interest” Workshops Mapping Communities of Interest (COI) Communities of Interest (COI) are communities that deserve consideration as district lines are being drawn. In the past, COI have often had their voting rights suppressed through gerrymandering or other means of voter suppression. Several tools exist to help these groups and neighborhoods identify themselves on the map so

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Redistricting Commission Overview

Redistricting Commission On November 3, 2020, Virginia voters passed a Constitutional Amendment establishing a Redistricting Commission of citizens and legislators, led by a citizen chair. This Redistricting Commission will draw Virginia’s election district maps instead of the full General Assembly. This commission will be bipartisan. At least one study of redistricting outcomes in all 50 states has found that “both

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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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