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Some Call for Change in Wake of Gerrymandering Ruling

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Former Governor Doug Wilder says the dissolution of Virginia's Third Congressional District is a wakeup call.

A federal court ruled it purposely packed African-American voters into a single district, a form of gerrymandering. In this case, a district was ruled to use race as a means of diluting the power of Virginia's black voters.

Gerrymandering gets the blame for stamping out competition in voting districts, eventual gridlock and clouding the political process. And it continues, according to OneVirginia2021 Policy Chair Greg Lucyk, because those who stand to gain make the calls.

"When you draw districts to feather your own bed so to speak, that's equivalent to corruption,” Lucyk said.

He and others at OneVirginia2021 say the General Assembly should no longer draw the districts. Instead, they want the power handed off to an impartial, independent group through a constitutional amendment.

"Take the politics out altogether. That's the remedy,” Lucyk said.

But Wilder, who was Virginia's first African-American governor, says that's not realistic. "Not going to happen. The legislature is not going to surrender that authority,” he said.

Even though a panel of judges ruled that the Third District must be fixed by April 2015, Wilder does not feel that alone will overhaul the system.

"The real question is can reasonable people come together? That's what we always did when I was in the legislature. Let's give and take. You get some, I get some,” Wilder said.

Wilder also wonders about the quality of the candidates. "If you've got to have that to win an election, then are you really appealing and representing all people in Virginia?” he said.

Challenges aside, Lucyk says he will not give up. "Gerrymandering harms voters more than anyone else and it harms our political process,” he said.

Redistricting is supposed to be done every 10 years once the latest numbers from the census return. In an ideal world, advocacy groups say other criteria, such as ensuring compact, even district lines, would take precedence.

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