Republican leadership in Richmond has announced a special joint subcommittee to address a number of issues related to elections in the commonwealth.
Members of the Virginia House and Senate are expected to tackle issues like absentee ballots, voter assignments in split precincts, and recount procedures. Along with these issues, the group One Virginia 2021 is calling on the subcommittee to also address the need for redistricting reform.
“The split precinct and the misassigned voters are a direct result of gerrymandering, and to look at just those two symptoms, which are problems in and of themselves, but to look at those two symptoms would miss the underlying problem,” says Brian Cannon of One Virginia 2021.
One Virginia 2021 says House Bill 312 calls for a special joint reapportionment committee. The group says these two committees could be combined to tackle the issues together.
The January 25th announcement by Speaker Cox and Senate Leader Norment of a Joint Subcommittee on Election Review is an excellent step in making the Commonwealth’s election laws work for all Virginians. The 2017 elections put a microscope on the recount process and the General Assembly’s habit of drawing district maps that split voting precincts. These flaws further sap Virginians’ belief that their votes matter. And we have deeper problems.
“These issues are not about who wins or loses elections, but about the confidence of the public in our elections,” Senator Norment said in a statement. OneVirginia2021 agrees. But the Joint Subcommittee, co-chaired by House and Senate Privileges & Elections chairs Mark Cole and Jill Vogel, must go where the General Assembly has dared not.
Delegate Jeion Ward has proposed a bipartisan “special joint reapportionment committee.” Under her bill, H.B. 312, an eight-member panel would hold hearings around the Commonwealth to seek comment on the redistricting process, including whether districts should be drawn by an independent commission and what criteria should be considered in preparing redistricting plans. This would fit nicely into the Cole/Vogel subcommittee.
"We know that keeping our communities together - instead of fracturing them through gerrymandering - can prevent most the problems the subcommittee is charged with addressing. We also recognize that politicians drawing their own maps for political gain is a major factor that exponentially increases the odds of many of these problems occurring. A clean redistricting process that respects communities, prohibits gerrymandering, adds transparency, and takes the map-drawing out of the hands of politicians would serve Virginia better than our current, hyper-political process. The special subcommittee should consider gerrymandering as one of the main underlying causes of the symptoms that have come to light in this past election," said Brian Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting.
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