A Bipartisan Push for Redistricting Reform in Virginia

An independent redistricting commission would help limit partisan gerrymandering

November 29, 2018

In Virginia, a bipartisan committee of former political leaders and election law experts released on Thursday a proposed constitutional amendment to create an independent redistricting commission.

Currently, Virginia's General Assembly oversees the process of drawing legislative district boundaries. The maps drawn by the state at the start of the decade were considered some of the most heavily gerrymandered in the country on both the congressional and state levels, though litigation has since led to some improvements. Analyses by the Brennan Center and others show that gerrymandering can be manipulated for partisan gain and to marginalize communities of color.

All of Virginia’s 11 Congressional districts, 100 House of Delegates districts, and 40 Virginia Senate districts will be redrawn in 2021, after the 2020 Census. An overwhelming majority of Virginians — nearly three-quarters of survey respondents — support putting an independent redistricting commission of drawing the state’s political districts. This reflects broader polling trends across the country which indicate strong opposition to partisan gerrymandering.

Virginia’s bipartisan committee, which was convened by the organization OneVirginia2021, hopes to implement the redistricting commission in time for its once-in-a-decade redistricting in 2021. That’s an ambitious timeline: It requires the proposed amendment to pass in both the 2019 and 2020 sessions of the General Assembly — the first of which convenes in January. If that happens, the amendment would appear on the ballot as a referendum for the 2020 elections.

The political maps in Virginia are heavily gerrymandered

As the Virginia state legislature sets the agenda for 2019, it has the opportunity to take substantive action against extreme gerrymandering. Creating a redistricting system that is independent and transparent would advance democracy in Virginia and help ensure its citizens are fairly represented.

(Image: Joe Daniel Price/Getty)