Commission Discusses Proposed Timeline, FOIA Rules

Co-chair Greta Harris presided over the second meeting of the Virginia Redistricting Commission on Tuesday morning, March 30.  The Commissioners considered the proposed timeline  which is summarized in our March 25 blog post.

The first point for discussion was whether the days of the meetings could be changed.  It was recommended that the Division of Legislative Services staff (DLS) would poll members offline so personal schedules could be consulted in more detail.  The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 13 but watch this blog for alerts to any changes.

Census data now expected to arrive by mid-August.

 It was then announced that rather than September 30, the Census data would be available the second week in August.  It will be in a different format than the data which will follow in late September. 

Meg Lamb, an attorney with DLS, told the commission the state should not have any problem using the data despite the format questions.  The numbers for prison reallocation were compiled in summer 2020 so these figures also will not be an issue.  The mid-August arrival of the Census data will trigger the “45 day” timeline. 

Introduction to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

Commission members will generally rely on DLS for guidance, but an introduction to FOIA was provided for the benefit of new Commission members and the public.  Alan Gernhardt, executive director, Freedom of Information Advisory Council,  presented the slide program. (Begins on page 4.)

Of note –

  • Anytime three or more members of the Commission gather to talk Commission business, they are subject to Virginia’s Open Meetings Law which means they must provide the public with advance notice, the opportunity to watch, and minutes.
  • DLS staff do not count toward the number of members.
  • For Commission work, legislator members must follow the same rules as citizen members. (Usual exemptions for legislators under FOIA will not apply.)  This question was specifically asked by citizen commissioner Sean Kumar.
  • All votes must be taken at properly noticed public meetings. No secret ballots or even written ballots. Otherwise, votes are void.
  • Each Commissioner should use their special Commission email addresses and use DLS to distribute information.
  • Social media may be public records and subject to FOIA if used to transact public business.
  • Penalties through the courts can be costly.
  • The Zoom “Chat” is FOIAble and could become a closed meeting within a meeting. Alan Gernhardt pointed out that a Commissioner on the phone would not be able to see the “Chat”.   More to come on this issue.

For more specifics, we were referred to the Virginia Code on FOIA.

Public Comments

Written Public Comments are available on the DLS website.

18 members of the public also registered to speak but, in the end, 12 spoke.  Some referred to their written public comments which were previously submitted.  There were a wide range of comments:

  • Several who represented advocacy groups stressed the importance of transparency, fostering citizen participation, and ensuring meetings are more accessible to the public. It is essential that meetings and materials be available in Spanish and other languages.
  • Detailed suggestions were presented for a Commission website and included a 5-state survey of the best features of other Commission websites.
  • Citizen members were urged to be the voice of Virginians and stand up against incumbent protection.
  • Individuals also presented a redistricting strategy for Virginia congressional districts and called for the city of Lynchburg to be unified in one district.

TIP – If you want to speak before the Commission, you need to register through the DLS site when the meeting is announced.  This needs to be done early as requests to speak are not accepted the morning of the meeting.  You will then receive a Zoom link that you should use to access the meeting so they can connect to you when it is your time to comment.  It cannot be shared with others.

Observer Corps Reporters: 

Carolyn Caywood, LWV-SHR

Chris DeRosa, LWV-ARL

Peggy Layne, LWV-MC

Fran Larkins, LWV-FRA

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Redistricting Commission Schedules Meeting for March 30

The Virginia Redistricting Commission has scheduled its next meeting for March 30 at 10 a.m. The session will mark the first time the commission has met since its inaugural meeting on January 21, when it elected two co-chairs. The agenda for the meeting is still pending, but will be posted on the redistricting page of the website of the Division of Legislative Services when it is ready. 

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June 23, 2020 Primary Election

Tuesday, June 23 is Federal Primary Election Day for Virginia. If you haven’t voted Absentee, vote at your assigned polling location on Tuesday between 6am and 7pm. Some polling locations have changed temporarily due to COVID concerns–you should have received a notice from your local registrar if your polling location changed and you can check your registrar’s website. You must show a valid photo ID, like a Driver’s license. More details on candidates at VOTE411. Stay safe!

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Congratulations to Lisa Koteen Gerchick of Arlington LWV

Lisa Koteen Gerchick, member of Arlington League and co-chair of the LWV-VA voting and elections position study group, was appointed to the State Board of Elections Advisory Review Workgroup on December 18, 2019.  The workgroup is composed of representatives of local government agencies involved in the electoral process and of private citizens from the election community.

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2020 LWV-VA Legislative Priorities

The LWV of Virginia Legislative Priorities are now available at https://lwv-va.org/action-advocacy/2020-lwv-va-legislative-priorities/ for long-term use.

Here is what you’ll find there: 

LWV-VA Legislative Priorities for Advocacy/Action in 2020

Planning for and predicting what will be the most vital issues for advocacy in an upcoming legislative session is very difficult. Historically, the LWV-VA Board proposes a set of priorities but those have often been adjusted and expanded when issues arise quickly and need significant advocacy and lobbying. Thus, this list is offered as a start to preparation for the 2020 General Assembly Session. Some items are more specific than others. We have a book full of LWV-VA Positions to apply to issues but more specific language for advocacy and lobbying on actual legislative proposals will need to be developed in order to be effective. We welcome your analysis and suggestions.

LWV-VA Legislative Team: Carol Noggle, Mary Crutchfield, Julia Tanner

  1. Voting Rights

    1. Support 100%right to vote [Constitutional Amendment for 2021-22]

    2. Assure continuation of Governor’s executive clemency authority to restore felons’ rights

  2. Election & Voter Protection

    1. Support funding and measures for integrity and security; State and Local level

    2. Support funding & measures for a perfect fail-proof process for online voter registration

    3. Support measures for proper counting of and on-time receipt of mailed in absentee ballots

    4. Increase eligible/valid photo IDs, e.g.out of state students

  3. Redistricting: Support Constitutional Amendment resolution passage in 2020

  4. Gun Violence Prevention/ Safety:

    1. Support universal background checks

    2. Support “Red Flag” laws

    3. Support strengthening Extreme Risk Protective Orders

    4. Support Child Access Prevention laws

    5. [See 2019 Special Session1 list of over 40 bills to analyze for support or opposition]

  5. Women’s Rights

    1. Support ratification of the ERA

    2. Support equal pay;[ [Oppose wage discrimination]

    3. Support right to reproductive choice [ See SB1637 by Sen Boysko for sample]

  6. Sexual Harassment – Support required in-person training at workplace [State/ private?]

  7. Education

    1. Support funding for school infrastructure

    2. Oppose public funding for private schools

    3. Oppose discriminatory and deleterious practices for discipline/behavior issues

    4. [Apply LWV-VA Education position on ‘Standards for School Climate” “Classrooms not Courtrooms”]

  8. Justice and Juvenile Justice

    1. Oppose discrimination [support rights] re LGBTQ community and many other special groups

    2. Eliminate cash bail; support measures to reduce confinement while awaiting trial

    3. Collect data on present use of bail

    4. Oppose additional mandatory minimum sentences

    5. Oppose discriminatory and deleterious practices for juvenile issues

  9. Immigration

    1. Support immigrant protection and resources for support

  10. Census: Support funding, outreach, education & personnel to ensure high participation

  11. Environment: See LWV-VA Positions to support or oppose germane issues

*Note These LWV-VA legislative priorities as of Sept.13, 2019 are not ranked and are subject to change

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High School Voter Registration Challenge

Governor Northam Announces 2019–2020 Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge
Learn More Here https://lwv-va.org/virginiahsvr/

Governor’s full Press Release can be found at http://bit.ly/2m7w2PD

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the 2019–2020 Governor’s High School Voter Registration Challenge. High schools across the Commonwealth will have the opportunity to compete to register the highest percentage of their voting-age population. Schools that reach or exceed 65 percent registration of their eligible senior class will receive a congratulatory certificate from the Governor. The Governor’s Challenge was created in 2016 and is a partnership of the Office of the Governor and the Virginia Secretaries of Administration and Education, in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Elections, and the League of Women Voters of Virginia.

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