Sept. 1 brings yet another reminder of the partisan rancor that too often paralyzes the Virginia General Assembly these days. Despite convening briefly for a special session in mid-August, that body failed to meet the deadline imposed by a federal court for redrawing the boundaries of the state’s Third Congressional District. … While the legal and political wrangling continues, the failure of the General Assembly to address its responsibilities will likely leave the map-drawing in the hands of the federal judiciary — a job that the League of Women Voters of Virginia suspects the judges are not eager to take on. The league believes that these maps are a good place to begin, because they were developed by persons seeking to adhere to the redistricting requirements embedded in the Virginia Constitution, rather than by persons seeking only to amass enough voters of the right political stripe in their districts to assure their easy re-election.
The judges do have the opportunity to set a very positive example for all future redistricting efforts by using as their starting point the independent, bipartisan redistricting plans that were developed during the last redistricting cycle. A good redistricting plan would respect natural geographic boundaries, the boundaries of local jurisdictions and communities of interest. If redistricting is done in a way that is fair and non-partisan, it will ultimately produce a result that permits democratic processes to flourish in our state and reflects the true political power of minorities and other ethnic groups within our increasingly diverse commonwealth.
The court also has the opportunity to follow a key recommendation of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s bipartisan Integrity Commission. The commission recommended amending the Virginia Constitution so that future redistricting plans would always be drawn by an independent commission, rather than partisan politicians.