Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Virginia’s long-running racial gerrymandering lawsuit, the 2020 General Assembly should focus on passing a constitutional amendment that will create a redistricting commission.
Last week, the high court dismissed an appeal by the Republican-led House of Delegates over a suit lodged in 2014 by a Democratic lawyer on behalf of several Virginia voters who challenged the legality of the 2011 legislative map approved by the assembly.
This lawsuit proves why Virginia needs to take political cartography away from the General Assembly. As one former lawmaker told us, redistricting is the most selfish act in the legislature. It’s all about political preservation — not what’s best for the voters.
This winter, the Assembly took a step in the right direction when it gave initial approval to a constitutional amendment that would form a redistricting commission. This 16-member group would give the map-drawing responsibility to a bipartisan group consisting of eight citizen members and eight lawmakers. The assembly would have final approval of the maps, but could not make changes.
The legislature must pass the amendment again next year — with no changes — and then it would go before voters in November 2020. If voters approve, it go into effect for the 2021 redistricting. A redistricting commission would give transparency to a process that has been opaque at best and would, with hope, avoid lawsuits.