Posted by 06 November 2020
Virginia legislators will no longer be determining the shape of legislative and congressional districts in that state.
Voters overwhelmingly approved Question 1, which gives power to draw congressional and legislative districts to an independent commission. Those backing this state constitutional amendment said that allowing politicians to draw these districts leads to gerrymandering, which deprives many voters of a meaningful choice. They contended that independent commissions will consider politics less than politicians will. Opponents, however, pushed back. They said that by giving redistricting power to a commission, it will take away the chance of voters to hold their elected officials accountable for how districts are drawn.
Congressional and legislative lines must be drawn after every census. In 2011, Virginia legislators were unable to agree on new districts, since Democrats and Republicans split control of legislative chambers. Under an independent commission, this situation would not occur again. Legislators in two successive sessions supported resolutions that would give voters the chance to vote on making this change to the state constitution.
When this commission convenes after the 2020 census results are known, it will be composed of legislators from the Democratic and Republican parties as well as private citizens. The commission will draw maps that could then be approved or rejected by the Virginia General Assembly. Legislators may not amend the maps. If the General Assembly rejects the maps, the commission will draw another set of maps. If the General Assembly votes down these maps, then the Virginia Supreme Court will draw the lines.
Prior to Virginia’s approval of this amendment, 7 states had similar independent commissions that draw congressional district lines, while 10 states had independent commissions to compose legislative districts.
Question 1 garnered nearly 66% of the vote.
Do you support an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative district lines?