Heading into this year’s General Assembly, Democrats were hopeful they’d get major movement on the issue of gerrymandering. That’s when politicians draw district lines to favor themselves. Now, as session wraps up, there’s been little progress on the issue.
The momentum seems to be there. Hundreds gathered in Richmond last weekend to call for redistricting reform, and the advocacy group OneVirginia2021 now has active chapters across the state. Executive Director Brian Cannon says the reason gerrymandering has lasted so long is because voters didn’t know about it.
And now as you’re starting to see more and more people become aware of why their government is dysfunctioning, you start to see that government’s not actually representing us it’s representing itself,” Cannon says. “And that’s a problem in a representative democracy.
And yet only one bill, that doesn’t actually change the process, passed this year. It says lawmakers must draw compact districts, a requirement that’s already in the state constitution. It also more narrowly defines a couple terms, as well as adding one new requirement -- that districts most respect the boundaries of localities.
Cannon says the real success this year was raising awareness.
“So we want to do better than this, we’ve got to put some real concrete rules up there for legislators to follow. And that’s got to be in the Constitution,” he says.
District lines are redrawn after the next census in 2020, and a constitutional amendment takes two years to get on the books. For advocates of redistricting reform, that means the deadline for action is next year.