If the election results of 2016 were really about rejecting the political establishment, then Congress didn’t get the memo. After all, 97 percent of incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives seeking re-election won even as national polls show overwhelming disapproval of Congress. Advocates for redistricting reform hope voters are ready to pay more attention to the otherwise wonky issue of legislative districts are drawn, a system that’s helped send so many incumbents back to Washington and state capitols, year after year. One group trying to change that system is One Virginia 2021, a nonpartisan organization that’s challenging the constitutionality of 11 state legislative district boundaries.
Executive director Brian Cannon says many of the Virginia General Assembly boundaries are so convoluted they no longer serve the people.
“I think when people scratch the surface on the concept of, ‘Are these elections rigged?’ it might not be rigged in the same way that Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump was saying it, but it doesn’t take you too long to get to gerrymandering,” Cannon says.
In the Virginia General Assembly, like in Congress, incumbents have a huge advantage; all who ran in the last election, in 2015, kept their seats. Cannon and his allies are waging a multi-front war on that system, which allows state lawmakers to draw the lines for state legislative and Congressional districts. A decision in the Virginia case is expected next month.