Amendments to the Virginia Constitution must be passed by two different General Assemblies (an election in between) with exactly the same wording, and then be ratified by the voters in the following November General Election. Currently the Constitution places responsibility for creating congressional and General Assembly (GA) districts in the hands of the GA. Folks around the Commonwealth have been trying for years to replace this process, whereby the ruling party incumbents select their voters, with an independent redistricting process, where the voters could actually select their representatives.
An amendment was finally passed in 2019, when the Republicans controlled both GA houses, and passed again in 2020, when the Democrats took over control of both GA houses. This was the last opportunity to get an amendment to the voters prior to the 2021 redistricting following the 2020 census. If passed, the amendment would create a bipartisan redistricting commission, consisting of 8 legislators, 4 from each major party, and 8 citizens, who would be selected from lists provided by the two major parties.
Since the amendment was a compromise created under Republican control, the Democrats are split as to whether to support it. In particular, the Black Legislative Caucus feels that minorities are not protected from racial gerrymandering, there is no ban on political gerrymandering, and control of the redistricting process essentially remains in the hands of the GA. On the other hand, the amendment creates transparency whereby every step of the process would be open to the public. Some proponents are counting on a second round of amending the constitution to fix the major flaws and create a commission that is truly independent of the GA. Some opponents believe there will be no energy and money to launch another amendment process if this passes.
The delegates to the 2020 State Democratic Convention passed a Resolution package that included a resolution against passing this amendment. LCDC members will be voting at their September meeting as to how our sample ballots should look in relation to this amendment.
In any case, this matter is complex and requires education. So the LCDC Issues Committee put together a forum to debate the amendment. The “pro” side of the forum was represented by Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 and Kathay Feng of California Common Cause. The “con” side of the forum was represented by Del. Marcus Simon, HD53, and Del. Lashrecse Aird, HD63. This forum was moderated by Phyllis Randall, Chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. It was recorded. So if you missed the live forum, please watch it by Clicking Here so you can be prepared to vote in November and, if you’re a member, will be prepared to vote on our sample ballots.