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National and Southern organizations speak in favor of reform in VA

March 2nd, 2020, 10:52am by Aaron Barden

Last week, the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, in conjunction with other redistricting reform organizations, sent two letters to Virginia Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn, imploring her to introduce the reform amendment, SJ18, on the floor of House of Delegates. The introduction of, and eventual floor vote on, this proposal is key to ensuring that redistricting is done in a fairer and more transparent way. With a Committee vote on SJ18 set for later this afternoon, the House’s consideration of the amendment starts as the General Assembly begins its final week of session.

The first letter was co-signed by other national organizations working across the country to support state-level reform. The coalition included:

  • Common Cause
  • The League of Women Voters of the United States
  • RepresentUs

Together, we note the nationwide importance of this amendment, which would see Virginia join other states in removing redistricting authority from the legislators themselves. More significantly, Virginia would be the first state without a citizen-based initiative process to pass meaningful redistricting reform. The letter also emphasizes the reform provisions provided for in the amendment and enabling legislation, both of which have already passed the Senate and have broad support in the House. Not to mention overwhelming support from Virginia’s voters.

The second letter was co-signed by organizations in North Carolina and Texas that have been on the frontlines of reform in their states. This southern coalition included:

  • Common Cause, North Carolina
  • Raleigh-Apex NAACP
  • Common Cause, Texas
  • League of Women Voters, Texas
  • Texas Progressive Action Network
  • Texans Against Gerrymandering

These organizations discuss Virginia’s opportunity to act as a leader for the South by following through on its promises of redistricting reform. Many Southern states lack initiative processes, so like the Commonwealth, they too must rely on electing reform-minded legislators. By passing reform, Virginian legislators can restore public trust by showing that sometimes politicians do keep their promises, which would make reform more possible in other states. On the other hand, if Virginia reneges on reform, these organizations fear that efforts in Southern states, such as reform legislation in North Carolina and public hearing testimony in Texas, will suffer as a result.

The state of play in the Commonwealth has changed over the weekend. Governor Northam has stepped in to try to break the Democrats’ reform deadlock with a yet-to-be-released alternative proposal or the possibility of a special legislative session later on. The House Privileges & Elections Committee hearing (and promised vote on SJ18), which was originally set for 9:30am today, has been moved to sometime this afternoon. Following that vote, the full House of Delegates will have until Saturday to vote on the constitutional amendment. We hope that the General Assembly will follow through on redistricting reform – the voters, the region, and the nation are watching.

Tags: Redistricting

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