Support for Virginia’s Redistricting Amendment

From Virginia-based advocacy organizations to national anti-gerrymandering groups to every major newspaper in the Commonwealth, this ballot measure has a long bipartisan list of endorsements.

Below is a sampling of those asking voters to vote YES to support an end to partisan gerrymandering.

Virginia-Based Advocacy Organizations:

ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga: “The time for redistricting reform is now. It would be a real shame if voters aren’t given the opportunity to vote on the redistricting commission proposal in 2020 because some legislators are still more invested in using their power to pick their voters than giving voters the opportunity to vote on a new voter driven system for drawing legislative districts.”

League of Women Voters Virginia President Deb Wake: “Gerrymandering is voter suppression. We have an opportunity to provide a framework for fair redistricting that can serve as a model for other states. The proposed constitutional amendment gives the citizens of Virginia a chance to offer input for the first time in our history. All eyes are on Virginia to do the right thing and bring the amendment to the ballot box this November.”

Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Coons: “The Northern Virginia Chamber strongly supports the efforts to reform Virginia’s redistricting process and will work to ensure the amendment passes in November.”

Virginia Conservation Network: “The bipartisan support of substantive reform during the 2019 and 2020 legislative sessions marked a giant leap forward to significantly improve the way districts are drawn in Virginia, (and) would be the most comprehensive redistricting legislation that has ever passed through a state legislature.”

American Association of University Women of Virginia (AAUW): “This November we have the best chance we have ever had to strike at the heart of the partisan gerrymandering that has plagued redistricting in Virginia for decades. By voting “yes” for the Virginia Redistricting Commission Amendment – Amendment 1 on the ballot – redistricting will be assigned to a citizen-chaired, bipartisan commission composed of an equal number of citizens and members of the General Assembly. Let’s do it!!”

Virginia Elected Officials:

Congressman Don Beyer (D): “Some fellow Democrats have found faults with the proposed amendment, including the provision that would send a gridlocked commission’s map to the Virginia Supreme Court to serve as arbiter. But this mirrors a requirement in my very own Fair Representation Act, which sends maps to a panel of judges in the event a redistricting commission is not enacted on the state level. It may not be perfect, but the flaws are fixable.”

Senator Tim Kaine (D): (In response to a question about whether the Democrats should “continue down the road” of the constitutional amendment’s second passage now that they control both houses of the General Assembly): “I think they should keep going down the road to do the nonpartisan redistricting… And the details are important… You want to protect minority communities. The Voting Rights Act says you can’t dilute minority voting strength. And so this would have to be done in a way where people would feel confident that voting rights principles would be upheld. But I believe they can do that. And I hope that Democrats will demonstrate, with their leadership, that they’re going to continue down this path.”

Governor George Allen [R] “We’re going to make this a more perfect, fair commonwealth where we the people are in control rather than the politicians.”

Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton): “What Virginians have told us, loud and clear, is that they want voters to choose their legislators, not the other way around. I thank and applaud the members of the House of Delegates for having the courage to vote in the best interest of the people who elected us to the General Assembly.”

Senate President Pro Tempore L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth): “This package fully encompasses the kind of reform Virginians have wanted for a long time: an equitable, transparent and bipartisan process to ensure our electoral maps are drawn fairly.”

Senator Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond): “Virginia deserves a redistricting process that produces fair maps and ends partisan, racial, and prison gerrymandering. The criteria adopted by the General Assembly does just that.”

The Virginia Commonwealth Caucus, a bipartisan group of state legislators: “The constitutional amendment and redistricting commission would establish the clearest, fairest and least political mechanism for drawing fair districts in Virginia’s 400-year legislative history.”

Del. Ken Plum (D-36), former Chair of the Democratic Party of Virginia: “The partisan grip of one party over the redistricting process has dictated the legislative outcome of so many issues over the decades first by Democrats and more recently in the last two decades by Republicans. This abuse of political power increased in the public mind the need for a change in the process of drawing legislative boundary lines. … The old way of doing business also resulted in overt racial discrimination in the business of government. The new amendment addresses that concern directly: Every electoral district shall be drawn in accordance with the requirements of federal and state laws that address racial and ethnic fairness, including the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, and judicial decisions interpreting such laws. Districts shall provide, where practicable, opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.”

Del. Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-72): “Democratic candidates across Virginia made fair elections a part of their campaigns. We helped raise the issue of gerrymandering and fair representation from a high school civics vocabulary word to a prime concern of voters…Let’s live up to our own high standards, our own campaign promises and (Supreme Court Justice Sonia) Sotomayor’s call to action and pass meaningful reform now. We might not get another chance.

National Anti-Gerrymandering Advocates:

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder: “I support - and will work to make effective - the Commission in Virginia to do the redistricting in 2021. Republicans are trying to undo Commissions put in place in other states by the voters. I stand for fairness.”

Brennan Center for Justice Senior Counsel Michael Li: “The amendment would create protections for communities of color and require that maps be approved by the commission with supermajority bipartisan support. That would be a big win for voters in a state where this decade, African American voters were cynically packed into oddly shaped districts in order to engineer political advantages for white Republicans. Democrats, likewise, could face future temptation to use minority voters either to gerrymander an outsized advantage or to give incumbents of their party super-safe seats.”

Common Cause National Redistricting Director Kathay Feng: “Democratic legislators should add provisions to the enabling legislation that would require the Virginia Supreme Court to abide by the same mapping criteria as the commission, appoint a qualified special master, and provide for public input into the final maps…The people of Virginia should not have to wait any longer for fair maps. Now is the time for comprehensive redistricting reform in Virginia. Now is the time for the General Assembly to pass this amendment once again and give Virginia’s voters the chance to make history.”

FairVote Senior Fellow David Daley: “Instead of starting from scratch, Democrats should rally behind the bipartisan amendment in conjunction with specific complementary legislation. These bills include adding clearer criteria to keep existing communities together, requiring the commission’s members to reflect Virginia’s diversity and including specific rules to prohibit all forms of gerrymandering while drawing district lines.”

Voters Not Politicians Founder Katie Fahey: “I fully support this critical reform to end gerrymandering. In 2021 the district lines are being drawn no matter what, (and) your proposed amendment takes some of the best ideas from reforms that have been passed across the country, including Iowa, Michigan and California.”

Noteworthy Op-Eds:

Justin Levitt, a former Obama administration Justice Department official: “This amendment requires adherence to the Voting Rights Act … and then goes beyond. The VRA has been severely cut back by federal courts in recent years. The amendment establishes a state constitutional mandate with independent strength however the federal statute is construed.”

Dr. Sam Wang, Princeton Gerrymandering Project: “In 2020, the home of the United States’ first gerrymander will become the home of its solution. It requires them to do something they normally don’t like to do — give up some of their power. But if they do it right, they can protect minority communities, give citizens a direct voice in redistricting and set an example for the nation in how to draw fair districts.”

Professors Alex Keena, Michael Gilbert, Rebecca Green, Elliott Fullmer, Nicholas Goedert, Deborah Hellman, David Massee, Jr., Roy and Rosamond Woodruff Morgan, A. E. Dick Howard:“If the General Assembly approves this amendment and sends it to the voters for final blessing, it will set an exemplary precedent, showing that well-meaning politicians really will sacrifice some power to improve the quality of the election system.”

Roger Chesley: “The referendum before voters…(is) decidedly fairer than what’s in place now. It should produce candidates who have to truly listen to their constituents.”

Former Congressional Counsel and Virginia Cabinet Official, Bobby Vassar: “In his last State of the Union Address, President Obama said that America had ‘to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around,’ and that state legislatures should ‘let a bipartisan group do it.’ Right now, we have the opportunity to do just that and end partisan gerrymandering in Virginia once and for all. Let’s heed President Obama’s call. Because it’s not about politics, it’s about fairness.”

Emerge Virginia Founder and Former Chief of Staff to Senator Joe Biden, Susan S. Platt: “Comprehensive redistricting reform would make history… It’s a matter of fundamental fairness and ensuring that every vote counts equally under Virginia law. In many ways, that is what the modern Democratic Party has always stood for, and I would remind any lawmaker from my side of the aisle to remember that as they consider this reform package. It’s why I became a Democrat in the first place.”

Author of “Gerrymanders: How Redistricting has Protected Slavery, White Supremacy, and Partisan Minorities in Virginia,” Brent Tarter: “The proposed amendment would open a door to a fair and equitable electoral process in Virginia for the first time in the whole 400 years since the General Assembly first met in Jamestown. And no court could slam that door shut.”

Virginia’s Newspapers:

The Washington Post, September 2, 2020: “After years of grass-roots activism, a referendum to establish a genuinely bipartisan redistricting procedure, through a state constitutional amendment, is on the commonwealth’s November ballot. Voters should approve it.

Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press, January 5, 2020: “What’s clear is that the present system is profoundly broken, and Virginia is too close to real reform to allow that moment to pass. Better to work within the framework established last year, with this amendment, than to start from scratch.”

BH Media (Martinsville, Lynchburg, Danville Bristol), January 5, 2020: “It was easy for Democrats to be reform-minded when they were out of power; now that they’re in control, they must stand by the principled arguments for reform they have made for years. Pass the amendment and give voters the final say in November. If they don’t, prepare to reap the whirlwind.”

Washington Post, December 31, 2019: “Democrats raising objections — including Del. Mark H. Levine (D-Alexandria) — say the measure was rushed through in the most recent session and deserves more thought. Please. The change of heart is not motivated by concern about legislative imperfections, many of which can be addressed by the separate enactment of enabling legislation…(Democrats who) turn their back on a reform they promoted and promised to enact would be the height of hypocrisy and opportunism.”

Daily Progress, December 6, 2019: “Virginia Democrats have the opportunity to prove whether they’re principled — or just partisan. Are they out for their own interests — or those of their constituents? We’re talking about the opportunity to advance…the creation of a bipartisan commission to handle redistricting…Opposing reform is simply wrong — and especially so if Virginia Democrats behave as hypocrites on this important issue.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 3, 2019: “This amendment should be at the top of every lawmaker’s list. As we’ve said before, the current redistricting system is broken. Both parties are guilty of having used redistricting to keep their hold on power. Democrats lost power 20 years ago after controlling the assembly for much of the 20th century. We hope the 2020 General Assembly will not reverse course and quash reform. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle should support the proposed constitutional amendment.”

BH Media (Martinsville, Lynchburg, Danville, Bristol), November 24, 2019: “Virginia has a chance to end partisan redistricting forever, but it depends on the long-out-of-power Democrats re-passing the constitutional amendment. No doubt, some may be rethinking their support for redistricting reform now that they’re the ones with the power of the maps, but we have some advice for any wavering Democrat: Rise above your partisan leanings, do what’s right for this commonwealth and pass this amendment. It’s good policy and good politics. History will take note of what you do with this opportunity.”

Roanoke Times, October 27, 2019: “The amendment that passed isn’t perfect – few things made by mortal man are — and therein lies the excuse to kill it: Oh, we really do want to end gerrymandering, but we need a better amendment than this one. That’s a seductive line, as temptation often is: The reality is this amendment is the only shot available if we want to have something in place for the 2021 redistricting.”

It's time to change Virginia's Redistricting

There's a better way to draw fair districs.

The commission will end unfair laws.

By voting to support the amendment, Virginians will finally create a fair and inclusive process that will replace our outdated and discriminatory laws. This will ensure that legislative district lines are drawn fairly and do not favor one party over the other.

The commission will be led by citizens.

Politicians will no longer have free rein to choose whoever they want to represent. It’s time to put people over politicians by including citizens in the process for the first time, and having a citizen serve as chair of the commission itself.

The commission will protect civil rights.

Historic voting rights protections for minority communities will be added to the Virginia Constitution for the first time. In fact, Justin Levitt, a former Obama administration Justice Department official said that the "amendment requires adherence to the Voting Rights Act … and then goes beyond.""

The commission will be transparent.

Instead of shady backroom deals, the new system will be completely transparent to voters and watchdogs. Public meetings will be held across Virginia, with all data and notes from the meetings being completely open to the public