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I made this bumper sticker back in January 2017. I just added “Vote YES on Amendment 1” because that is THE BEST WAY to stop gerrymandering in Virginia.

There is a lot of misinformation about the amendment and the notion that some other amendment could replace it. That’s a manipulative distraction. Because it all comes down to this:

If you want the Democrats in Richmond to be free to gerrymander when they draw the new maps in 2021, then vote NO.

But if you believe gerrymandering is wrong regardless of which party is in power, then vote YES.

Here’s why:

ONLY an amendment can stop a 2021 gerrymander.

The anti-gerrymandering law that was passed in 2020 is MEANINGLESS. The legislature can do ANYTHING they like with the new maps because the Virginia constitution gives them complete, unfettered power. No law can change that.

And this has to happen NOW. New maps MUST BE DRAWN next year. There’s no stopping that. It can’t be paused for two legislative sessions and a general election as some other theoretical new amendment is approved.

And I mean literally RIGHT NOW. Voting has started. There’s no pause button for that either.

I’m hearing a lot distracting noise about the amendment not being perfect. Obviously it’s not perfect. But it is VERY GOOD.

It guarantees that the two parties will be forced to work together and draw maps that favor neither side. That is the ONLY REASON a redistricting commission exists, and the amendment achieves that goal.

I keep hearing distractions about the commission not being “independent.” What does that even mean? The point is to lock the two parties into a forced position where compromise is their only option. The amendment does exactly that.

I hear distractions about the commission having too many “elected officials” or that the parties are in too much control of who serves on it. THAT IS THE POINT of the commission.

The two parties get 8 members each, and then at least 12 members have to agree on a map. It’s aggressively bipartisan with no option but compromise. THAT is how you end gerrymandering.

But if Amendment 1 fails, we will be left only with the promise of some theoretical replacement amendment that can’t be ratified until after the new maps have been drawn without anything preventing them from being gerrymandered.

It’s either Amendment 1 or crossing your fingers and hoping that the Democrats in Richmond will set aside all partisan and personal interests and draw fair maps when they have complete power to make them as unfair as the GOP maps were against Democrats for the past decade.

The majority party gerrymanders. That’s why it’s so incredibly difficult to stop the perfectly legal but entirely anti-democratic practice. Virginia voters have ONCE CHANCE to do this, and it’s RIGHT NOW.

If you believe in fairness and principles, vote YES.

If you believe in revenge and hypocrisy, then vote NO.

Or maybe you actually think the Richmond Democrats are above gerrymandering? That our side are the “good guys,” and it’s only those “bad guy” Republicans who would ever do something so terrible as gerrymandering?

Grow up.

I’m not going to gamble away this amendment on a roll of the dice and the blind hope that incumbents will all suddenly become superhuman angels overnight. We’re talking about politicians.

Power corrupts. Gerrymandering has proven that again and again and again.

END IT NOW.

 

Here’s how the amendment looks on the ballot:

Virginia Question 1, the Redistricting Commission Amendment:

“yes” vote supports transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission composed of state legislators and citizens.

“no” vote opposes transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts to a redistricting commission, thus keeping the state legislature responsible for redistricting.

And here’s the complete text of the amendment (I’ve placed what I consider key points in red for easy skimming):

Section 6. Apportionment.

Members of the House of Representatives of the United States and members of the Senate and of the House of Delegates of the General Assembly shall be elected from electoral districts established by the General Assembly pursuant to Section 6-A of this Constitution. Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district. 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.

The General Assembly shall reapportion the Commonwealth shall be reapportioned into electoral districts in accordance with this section and Section 6-A in the year 2011 2021 and every ten years thereafter.

Any such decennial reapportionment law shall take effect immediately and not be subject to the limitations contained in Article IV, Section 13, of this Constitution.

The districts delineated in the decennial reapportionment law shall be implemented for the November general election for the United States House of Representatives, Senate, or House of Delegates, respectively, that is held immediately prior to the expiration of the term being served in the year that the reapportionment law is required to be enacted. A member in office at the time that a decennial redistricting law is enacted shall complete his term of office and shall continue to represent the district from which he was elected for the duration of such term of office so long as he does not move his residence from the district from which he was elected. Any vacancy occurring during such term shall be filled from the same district that elected the member whose vacancy is being filled.

Section 6-A. Virginia Redistricting Commission.

(a) In the year 2020 and every ten years thereafter, the Virginia Redistricting Commission (the Commission) shall be convened for the purpose of establishing districts for the United States House of Representatives and for the Senate and the House of Delegates of the General Assembly pursuant to Article II, Section 6 of this Constitution.

(b) The Commission shall consist of sixteen commissioners who shall be selected in accordance with the provisions of this subsection.

(1) Eight commissioners shall be legislative members, four of whom shall be members of the Senate of Virginia and four of whom shall be members of the House of Delegates. These commissioners shall be appointed no later than December 1 of the year ending in zero and shall continue to serve until their successors are appointed.

(A) Two commissioners shall represent the political party having the highest number of members in the Senate of Virginia and shall be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate of Virginia.

(B) Two commissioners shall represent the political party having the next highest number of members in the Senate of Virginia and shall be appointed by the leader of that political party.

(C) Two commissioners shall represent the political party having the highest number of members in the House of Delegates and shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Delegates.

(D) Two commissioners shall represent the political party having the next highest number of members in the House of Delegates and shall be appointed by the leader of that political party.

(2) Eight commissioners shall be citizen members who shall be selected in accordance with the provisions of this subdivision and in the manner determined by the General Assembly by general law.

(A) There shall be a Redistricting Commission Selection Committee (the Committee) consisting of five retired judges of the circuit courts of Virginia. By November 15 of the year ending in zero, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia shall certify to the Speaker of the House of Delegates, the leader in the House of Delegates of the political party having the next highest number of members in the House of Delegates, the President pro tempore of the Senate of Virginia, and the leader in the Senate of Virginia of the political party having the next highest number of members in the Senate a list of retired judges of the circuit courts of Virginia who are willing to serve on the Committee, and these members shall each select a judge from the list. The four judges selected to serve on the Committee shall select, by a majority vote, a judge from the list prescribed herein to serve as the fifth member of the Committee and to serve as the chairman of the Committee.

(B) By January 1 of the year ending in one, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, the leader in the House of Delegates of the political party having the next highest number of members in the House of Delegates, the President pro tempore of the Senate of Virginia, and the leader in the Senate of the political party having the next highest number of members in the Senate shall each submit to the Committee a list of at least sixteen citizen candidates for service on the Commission. Such citizen candidates shall meet the criteria established by the General Assembly by general law.

The Committee shall select, by a majority vote, two citizen members from each list submitted. No member or employee of the Congress of the United States or of the General Assembly shall be eligible to serve as a citizen member.

(c) By February 1 of the year ending in one, the Commission shall hold a public meeting at which it shall select a chairman from its membership. The chairman shall be a citizen member and shall be responsible for coordinating the work of the Commission.

(d) The Commission shall submit to the General Assembly plans for districts for the Senate and the House of Delegates of the General Assembly no later than 45 days following the receipt of census data and shall submit to the General Assembly plans for districts for the United States House of Representatives no later than 60 days following the receipt of census data or by the first day of July of that year, whichever occurs later.

(1) To be submitted as a proposed plan for districts for members of the United States House of Representatives, a plan shall receive affirmative votes of at least six of the eight legislative members and six of the eight citizen members.

(2) To be submitted as a proposed plan for districts for members of the Senate, a plan shall receive affirmative votes of at least six of the eight legislative members, including at least three of the four legislative members who are members of the Senate, and at least six of the eight citizen members.

(3) To be submitted as a proposed plan for districts for members of the House of Delegates, a plan shall receive affirmative votes of at least six of the eight legislative members, including at least three of the four legislative members who are members of the House of Delegates, and at least six of the eight citizen members.

(e) Plans for districts for the Senate and the House of Delegates shall be embodied in and voted on as a single bill. The vote on any bill embodying a plan for districts shall be taken in accordance with the provisions of Article IV, Section 11 of this Constitution, except that no amendments shall be permitted. Such bills shall not be subject to the provisions contained in Article V, Section 6 of this Constitution.

(f) Within fifteen days of receipt of a plan for districts, the General Assembly shall take a vote on the bill embodying that plan in accordance with the provisions of subsection (e). If the General Assembly fails to adopt such bill by this deadline, the Commission shall submit a new plan for districts to the General Assembly within fourteen days of the General Assembly’s failure to adopt the bill. The General Assembly shall take a vote on the bill embodying such plan within seven days of receipt of the plan. If the General Assembly fails to adopt such bill by this deadline, the districts shall be established by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

(g) If the Commission fails to submit a plan for districts by the deadline set forth in subsection (d), the Commission shall have fourteen days following its initial failure to submit a plan to the General Assembly. If the Commission fails to submit a plan for districts to the General Assembly by this deadline, the districts shall be established by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

If the Commission submits a plan for districts within fourteen days following its initial failure to submit a plan, the General Assembly shall take a vote on the bill embodying such plan within seven days of its receipt. If the General Assembly fails to adopt such bill by this deadline, the districts shall be established by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

(h) All meetings of the Commission shall be open to the public. Prior to proposing any redistricting plans and prior to voting on redistricting plans, the Commission shall hold at least three public hearings in different parts of the Commonwealth to receive and consider comments from the public.

(i) All records and documents of the Commission, or any individual or group performing delegated functions of or advising the Commission, related to the Commission’s work, including internal communications and communications from outside parties, shall be considered public information.[6]

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