Vote no:

Con­sol­i­dates the power of a few politi­cians to draw maps and does not ban ger­ry­man­der­ing

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Other Views - Rep­re­sents the 95th District, which in­cludes parts of Hamp­ton and New­port News, in the Vir­ginia House.

This elec­tion, Vir­ginia vot­ers will choose who has the power to draw po­lit­i­cal district bound­aries in the com­mon­wealth. Redistrict­ing only hap­pens ev­ery 10 years, so it is im­por­tant that we get it right.

Be­cause I know that Vir­gini­ans should be able to choose their rep­re­sen­ta­tives through a fair elec­tion process based on eq­ui­table maps drawn by an in­de­pen­dent and non-par­ti­san redistrict­ing com­mis­sion, I am vot­ing “No” on Amend­ment 1.

The way dis­tricts are drawn di­rectly im­pacts the com­po­si­tion of leg­isla­tive bod­ies such as the Gen­eral Assem­bly and im­pacts how poli­cies are made for the res­i­dents liv­ing un­der them. The cur­rent process needs re­form, but we must have redistrict­ing re­form that em­pow­ers vot­ers to choose their elected of­fi­cials, not the other way around. Fur­ther, true re­form must in­clude proac­tive, af­fir­ma­tive pro­tec­tions for com­mu­ni­ties of color in the map-draw­ing process.

I re­main com­mit­ted to pass­ing much needed re­forms, but the flawed amend­ment on our bal­lots this year is not that. We must vote our con­science, but we also need to know what ex­actly the amend­ment would do.

Amend­ment 1 con­sol­i­dates the power of a hand­ful of politi­cians to draw maps, has no guar­an­tee of mi­nor­ity rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the map-draw­ing process, and does not ban ger­ry­man­der­ing. This amend­ment is not only im­per­fect, it puts us in a worse po­si­tion than the 2020 sta­tus quo.

Amend­ment 1 would es­tab­lish a 16-mem­ber com­mis­sion — eight leg­is­la­tors and eight cit­i­zens — to draw the lines for con­gres­sional, state Se­nate, and state House dis­tricts. That sounds like re­form un­til you look more closely. The leg­is­la­tors would be four Repub­li­cans and four Democrats cho­sen by their party lead­ers. Here’s the big prob­lem: The party lead­ers who choose the eight leg­isla­tive mem­bers also hand­pick the list of cit­i­zen can­di­dates for the com­mis­sion. Then five re­tired judges pick the eight can­di­dates from the sup­plied lists. This is the op­po­site of an in­de­pen­dent, non-par­ti­san com­mis­sion.

Clearly, par­ti­san lead­ers would pick cit­i­zens from their own par­ties who would sup­port their agen­das. There is no place here for third par­ties, fur­ther en­trench­ing us in a twoparty sys­tem, and tak­ing away power from the peo­ple. This amend­ment does not cre­ate a cit­i­zen­led com­mis­sion, but rather a hy­per-par­ti­san com­mis­sion that will ben­e­fit the elite few al­ready in power to work to keep their power.

The pro­posed con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment makes no pro­vi­sion for di­ver­sity on the com­mis­sion and lacks mean­ing­ful pro­tec­tions for vot­ers of color. The past few years have shown us how im­por­tant it is to re­spect and pro­tect the voices of Black com­mu­ni­ties. Twice, district lines drawn by the Vir­ginia leg­is­la­ture were in­val­i­dated by the courts as un­con­sti­tu­tion­ally racially dis­crim­i­na­tory.

By iso­lat­ing Black vot­ers

Del. Mar­cia “Cia” Price into dis­tricts by our­selves, our voices were in­ten­tion­ally di­luted and our vot­ing-power di­min­ished. Rep­re­sen­ta­tion for Black vot­ers can­not be pushed aside as it is in Amend­ment 1. Rather, it should be en­shrined in our con­sti­tu­tion as a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of a fair redistrict­ing process.

Vot­ers across the coun­try are watch­ing Vir­ginia this year to see what we can make of the his­toric op­por­tu­nity on our doorstep. Can we truly be a bea­con of hope for progress and eq­uity for the na­tion? Will we set a model for the South, and for the na­tion, on how to tackle the legacy of racism and build a stronger, more eq­ui­table fu­ture for all of us?

We can do bet­ter, and we have op­tions.

Let’s vote no on Amend­ment 1, sup­port a truly in­de­pen­dent civil­ian ad­vi­sory com­mis­sion, move for­ward with draw­ing maps in a trans­par­ent way un­der the new law pro­vided by House Bill 1255 that makes ger­ry­man­der­ing il­le­gal, and in 2021 pass a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment that in­cludes pro­tec­tions for com­mu­ni­ties of color, man­dates di­ver­sity on the com­mis­sion, bans ger­ry­man­der­ing, in­creases trans­parency, and is cit­i­zen-led with no leg­is­la­tors.

I urge you to vote “No” on this year’s Amend­ment 1 and not put in our Con­sti­tu­tion an amend­ment that would keep politi­cians choos­ing their vot­ers and leave some com­mu­ni­ties be­hind.

Del. Mar­cia “Cia” Price

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