Much like Sisyphus pushing his boulder up a mountainside, advocates for redistricting reform will spend today lobbying lawmakers in Richmond to support changes to the way that all-important process is conducted. Perhaps, this time, they’ll have better results than the mythological figure of Greek lore. The nonpartisan One Virginia 2021 group wants the General Assembly to amend the state constitution to clarify the legal obligations for representative districts. They are also seeking serious consideration of bills that would explore alternatives to the rigged process of drawing those lines. Theirs is a straightforward case to make: Fair and equitable representation in the General Assembly and in Congress demands nonpartisan, independent redistricting based on federal guidelines and common-sense parameters.
The U.S. Constitution requires districts for House seats to be of equal size. The now-toothless Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race or ethnicity, either by splintering minority voters into many districts to dilute their influence or packing them into one district to minimize their voices.
Beyond that, the rules of the game are ill-defined. States are left by the federal charter to conduct the process as they see fit, one of the hallmarks (or drawbacks) of the American system of government.
State lawmakers therefore enjoy wide latitude to draw the lines as they like. Generally, that now means the computer-guided construction of maps that solidify power for the party controlling the process and protect incumbent lawmakers from serious challenges.