Redistricting Reform Dead for Now

Feb 14, 2017

House Minority Leader David Toscano, left, speaks with House Speaker William Howell during a House session today. Toscano was hoping this was the year for redistricting reform.
Credit Steve Helber / AP

Attempts to change how Virginia lawmakers draw political boundaries died today in the House of Delegates. Advocates of reforming the system watched on this morning in Richmond, as the final three bills to prevent gerrymandering were voted on in a subcommittee.

For many years, critics of gerrymandered districts have called for a nonpartisan commission draw Virginia’s political boundaries. Advocates of reform say it’s bonkers to allow lawmakers to essentially choose their constituents. But when Democrats were in power, they resisted the idea of a nonpartisan redistricting commission. Now Republicans are doing the same. Democratic Leader David Toscano says that’s too bad.

“I think people are increasingly concerned that the system has been rigged by people who are drawing lines to advantage their own candidacies and the candidacies of those people they know who are incumbents.”

But Republican Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo says good luck finding nonpartisan members for a commission. He says everybody has some kind of political affiliation. Besides, he says, the current system works fine.

“The last time we did redistricting, the Republicans controlled the House and the Democrats controlled the Senate. We worked with the governor, and we got a deal that the Democrats actually thought was fair.”

Critics of gerrymandered districts are not giving up. They say they’ll be back at it next year, and they’ll keep pushing until voters choose their lawmakers and not the other way around.