February 12, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Redistricting reform fails

I learned this evening via Bob Gibson on Facebook that the the Virginia House Privileges and Elections Subcommittee voted against two bills (Senate Bill 1000 and Senate Bill 824) that would have addressed the problem of redistricting. I was sad to learn that 25th District Delegate Steve Landes (Republican) was among those who voted no. (See nbc29.com.) I regret that I have been too busy with teaching lately to let my own elected representatives know what I thought, and it's apparently too late to do anything this year. Angry and frustrated, I downloaded the official map, modified it, and posted what follows on Facebook:

According to Article II, Section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia (virginia.gov),

"... Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory... "

And yet a quick glance at the map reveals numerous crazy, twisted districts such as this one (I have shaded the map for the sake of clarity), where I live. The 20th House District is squeezed so tightly on the west side of Waynesboro that you could just about hit a golf ball from the 24th District (SW) all the way to the 25th District (NE). It's a blatant violation of the state constitution: Gerrymandering 101.

Does all this matter? Do most people care? Perhaps not, but that itself would be a side-effect of this deliberate manipulation of the democratic process, leaving the people confused about which district they live in. It's one more way that our elected representatives insulate themselves from the will of the people. In the 2011 House of Delegates races, 73 of the 100 races were not competitive, i.e., the losing candidate received fewer than 30% of the votes. Some democracy.

What recourse do We the People have? Since the electoral process itself is essentially rigged, and the state constitution does not provide for citizen-initiated referenda that might change things, the only real hope for reform would seem to lie in the court system.

Virginia 20th House of Delegates District 2010

(Map from virginia.gov, modified.)

Is it any wonder that the state government allows such highly unpopular things as the Dominion Atlantic Coast Pipeline (natural gas) to be carried out? (More on that soon...)