Loudoun Times-Mirror • May 9th, 2018
By Wendy Gooditis
A decade is a long time. Enough to cover five Olympic games, two presidential elections and 10 county fairs. That’s how long the new congressional and state house districts will last when the General Assembly redraws them following the 2020 census. Virginia’s leaders have taken steps to make sure the process is fair, but we must do more. We must enact clear prohibitions against gerrymandering: the practice of drawing political boundaries to favor one particular candidate or political party, or to minimize the voices of minority communities. In addition, we should consider other, fairer processes used by states around the country.
Delegate Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) introduced HB 1598 this year, a bill that requires districts to be compact, contiguous, and respectful of existing communities. I voted for HB 1598 because it is a step in the right direction. The bill does not, however, prohibit partisan gerrymandering. In fact, the House of Delegates missed an opportunity to enact just such a prohibition in April. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) suggested amendments to HB 1598 that would have stopped legislators from drawing lines “for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party” or “to restrict or deny the ability of any racial or language minority to participate in the political process.” Sadly, these amendments were not approved by the House.