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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Learn More About the Citizen Members

Thanks to the transparency embodied in the new constitutional amendment, you can read the full applications of the citizens who were appointed to the commission. Click here for our summary of their backgrounds and excerpts from their letters of recommendation. Click here to download a zip file containing their complete applications and letters of reference, as well as those of the 62 individuals who were finalists.

–Fran Larkins, LWV-VA Fredericksburg, and Sara Fitzgerald, LWV-VA, Falls Church

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Issue Groups

League members are invited to join one of our issue groups by selecting their interests HERE. Issue Groups meet: Affordable Housing: third Wednesday of the month at 12 p.m.–except for next meeting on January 21 at 12 p.m. Study info can be found HERE. Behavioral Health: third Tuesday of the month at 6:30pm Campaign Finance Reform: second Wednesday of the

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Amendment #1 Passes at the Polls

Citizen-led, transparent process to replace current, broken system

Virginians voted Tuesday to establish a bipartisan and citizen-led redistricting commission, thwarting the practice of politicians picking their constituents.  

The Amendment, which took two years to bring to the voters, after having to pass two different sessions of the General Assembly, creates a redistricting commission rather than having maps drawn by the majority party. Districts will need to be drawn in accordance with strict requirements of federal and state laws that address racial and ethnic fairness and provide opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.

“Politicians have benefitted from a system where they picked their own districts for too long. The amendment provides for a citizen-led commission which will take redistricting out of backroom political maneuverings,” said Deb Wake, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “All of the proceedings of this commission are open to the public and transparent, bringing much needed sunlight to the process. Thanks to Governor Northam for inserting enabling language so the process can start immediately.”

The League has been working for fair redistricting for many generations and will continue to work to make sure there is citizen involvement and oversight of the process. We support #PeoplePoweredFairMaps.

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VOTING

The League of Women Voters of Virginia REGISTERS voters and provides accurate information on registration across the Commonwealth. Register to vote, or to check your registration, click here. Governor’s Challenge for high school students The League of Women Voters of Virginia EDUCATES: Frequently Asked Voting Questions Myths & Truths About Voting by Mail VOTE411 where voters can find out information

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Legislative Priorities: Supporting Justice

Governor Northam is calling a Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly in order to adopt a revised budget in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and propose criminal justice and policing reforms. 

The legislature will convene August 18, 2020, after the governor’s end-of-fiscal-year report to the General Assembly’s money committees. The Special Session may extend into early September.

Contact your state legislators and ask them to support legislation on matters important to you! Find contact information for your state Delegate and state Senator at whosmy.virginiageneralassembly.gov. You may also submit comments to .

The League of Women Voters of Virginia will evaluate bills legislators plan to file in the Special Session with League Positions from Study. See Impact on Issues and Positioned for Action for further details on League Positions. Tentative priorities are set forth below. It appears League Positions also support two bills proposed by the Virginia COVID-19 Justice Coalition, of which the League is a member. 

Bills that will be filed in the Special Session by the state Senate majority are listed here. The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus has listed priorities here. The state House of Delegates is convening hearings led jointly by its Public Safety and Courts of Justice Committees and reviewing public comments. As of this printing, two hearings can be viewed on archived video— here and here.

Currently, the League of Women Voters of Virginia expects to prioritize the following announced bills. As bills are filed in the coming weeks, priorities may be adjusted accordingly. 

  •  Prohibit Hiring of Officers Fired or Resigned During Use of Force Investigations
  •  Ban Sex by Law Enforcement With Arrested Individuals 
  •  Create a Decertification Procedure for Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Create Duty to Intervene by Fellow Law Enforcement Officers
  •  Require Departments to Create a Use of Force Continuum
  •  Require Comprehensive Reporting by Law Enforcement Agencies Including Use of Force Data
  • Cancel HB599 Funding for Local Police With Disproportionate Use of Force Incidents 
  • Create Local Authority for a Marcus Alert System to Report Acute Mental Health Crises
  • Create Local Option for Citizen Review Board to Investigate, Fire, Discipline Officers
  • Enhance Courts’ Ability to Expunge Dismissed Charges, Substance Convictions & Pardoned Offenses
  • Eliminate Commonwealth’s Right to Jury Trial When Jury Trials Suspended for Emergency
  • Revise the System of Credits for Good Behavior by Those Incarcerated; see this bill from last session 
  • Discretion for Compassionate Release of Terminally Ill or Permanently Disabled Prisoners
  • Sentence Reductions in Pandemics, With the Release of Vulnerable Populations.

In addition, the League continues to elevate longtime priorities such as opposing cash bail, supporting alternatives to incarceration, and attention to behavioral health. Mental health priorities include training about the nature and treatment of mental illness for justice system personnel involved in civil commitment in Virginia, support for mental health and drug courts to avoid inappropriate entry into the criminal justice system and provide needed treatment, and expansion of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) programs.

In terms of Voting & Elections priorities for the Special Session, several are relevant to the budget, COVID-19, and Justice. In particular, the League supports measures to making voting more accessible to all populations. Topics include support for secure absentee ballot drop boxes, permitting first-time voters who registered by mail to return a copy of their ID with any first ballot they cast by mail, and provision of prepaid postage on return ballot envelopes sent to requesting absentee voters throughout the Commonwealth instead of only in certain areas. 

 

Regular Session

Looking ahead to the Regular Session in Spring 2021, the League has developed the following draft priority list:

  • Voting at Home
  • Preclearance at the state level of practices restricted under the federal Voting Rights Act
  • Redistricting process improvement via constitutional amendment and enabling legislation
  • Election Integrity & Security: Replace VERIS with a system that produces a voter-verifiable paper trail and is secure, accurate, recountable, accessible and transparent.
  • Campaign Finance Reform:
    • Public financing of state office candidates
    • Improved transparency
    • An effective oversight and enforcement agency
    • Limit contributions by individuals, corporations, and political parties. A summary of other states’ legislation on the latter is available here
  • Environmental Conservation:
    • Money in politics— including elimination of the ability of energy providers to use captive ratepayers’ utility payments for political contributions
    • Transportation: attention to renewable energy for transportation solutions
    • Energy Economy: clear air & water; reduce detrimental energy policy impacts on ratepayers
  • 100% Right to Vote constitutional amendment

A continuing priority is Education and Sexual Harassment Training in the Workplace. The Elections and Affordable Housing Studies are continuing and we look forward to the results of those workgroups.

 

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Virginia Gerrymandering

“Gerrymandering” is when officials draw election maps for purposes other than working to give every eligible voter an equal voice in our democracy. Common forms of gerrymandering that distort votes are designed to ensure the dominance of a political party or individuals or for purposes of discrimination against racial or ethnic groups. Legislators at times ensure that an opposition legislator

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New Voting & Elections Laws took effect July 1, 2020

No Excuse Absentee Voting, HB 1 (Herring), HB 207 (VanValkenburg), SB 11 (Howell)

  • Allows any voter qualified to vote in an election to vote absentee without an excuse.

Redistricting Constitutional Amendment, SJ18 (Barker), and Criteria Bill, SB717 (McClellan) / HB1255 (Price)

  • Virginia’s election maps are gerrymandered. Virginia’s Constitution allows legislators to draw boundaries that ensure they are reelected.  Legislators are able to use detailed voter data in selecting their own constituents. Last year, after extensive negotiation, Virginia’s legislature passed a constitutional amendment for a redistricting commission of 8 legislators and 8 citizens, with a citizen chair. Virginia’s legislature passed the constitutional amendment the requisite second time this session, along with criteria legislation from Senator Jennifer McClellan and Delegate Cia Price. The Senate vote was 38 – 2, and the House vote was 46 – 43. The General Assembly also passed a ballot referendum which will put the matter before voters in the November general election.

Expand Accepted IDs; Eliminating Photo ID Requirement HB19 (Lindsey), HB213 (Sullivan), SB65 (Locke)

  • HB19 and SB65 eliminate, for most qualified voters, the requirement to provide photo identification at the polls
  • HB213 adds to the list of acceptable forms of voter ID a valid student photo ID card issued by any institution of higher education in any other state or territory of the United States

Repealing Race Based Restrictions on Voting, HB1086 (Price), SB555 (Spruill)

  • Repeals laws that were still on the books relating to voting restrictions, poll taxes, and registration records separated on the basis of race

Automatic Voter Registration, HB235 (J. Cole), SB219 (Marsden)

  • Gives visitors to the Department of Motor Vehicles the choice to opt out of registering to vote instead of an opt in to filling out a voter registration application.

Election Day Holiday, HB108 (Lindsey), SB610 (Lucas)

  • Designates Election Day, the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as a state holiday and removes Lee-Jackson Day as a state holiday.

High School Voter Registration, HB1491 (Guy)

  • Requires every public high school to give students, who are eligible to register to vote, access to registration information and applications, or access to the online registration system, and the opportunity to apply during the school day.

 

Same Day Registration & Voting, HB201 (Ayala), delayed effective date of July 1, 2022.

  • Will let qualified voters register and vote on the same day if they provide proof of residency. 
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