Category: Voter Rights (Page 1 of 15)

Why We Oppose Constitutional Amendment #1

Vote NO on 1

This fall, Virginians will vote on a constitutional amendment that could enshrine political gerrymandering in our state constitution. If you prefer a Virginia where voters choose their politicians with a truly independent and non-partisan redistricting commission, we must vote NO on Amendment 1.

The rationale for Democratic Voters

At first glance, the amendment looks good: it establishes a bipartisan commission to draw redistricting lines. But there is a “Poison Pill” in the full text of the amendment, which is not included in the explanation on the ballot. This “Poison Pill” establishes a redistricting process that makes political gerrymandering legal in Virginia and is much worse than what we have today.

What’s a “Poison Pill”? It’s a little provision in a big law that undermines the overall intent of the law. In this case, the poison pill provides that a mere 2 members of the 16-member commission can veto the State plan, then the Commission is scrapped and the VA Supreme Court takes over to draw the lines. What’s wrong with this?

• The VA Supreme Court is highly partisan. Currently, it has 6 Republicans and 1 Democrat. The Court is appointed by the majority party of the Legislature in Virginia. Thus, the Amendment continues to have the political majority draw the lines. This seems like what we have now, but it is much worse because …

• The Amendment overrules the new Anti-Political-Gerrymandering law passed this year and does nothing to ban political gerrymandering. The Amendment provides no rules or objectives governing the VA Supreme Court’s redistricting. No objective to keep geographical communities together. No objective to represent the political makeup of the voters. Under the Amendment, it will be perfectly legal for the VA Supreme Court to draw redistricting lines with the sole purpose of making both houses of the legislature a Republican majority — no matter how crazy the maps end up looking.

• There is no requirement of fairness, transparency, or justification of the lines drawn. We will never know the rationale behind the lines the Court does not have to justify its decision. The sister of a sitting Republican Senator is on the Court, and she will be empowered to draw the lines of her brother’s district in favor of her brother. This will be completely legal.

• The VA Supreme Court’s map will be unchallengeable because there is no higher court to appeal to. The Amendment overrules the Constitutional system of checks and balances as relates to redistricting.

• And the worst part of all is that this Amendment will likely result in a perpetually Republican legislature and Supreme Court regardless of the changing political demographics of the State. Under the Amendment, the Republican Court can legally draw the lines to favor its own party thereby guaranteeing a Republican majority in the Legislature. The Republic majority in the Legislature, in turn, will continue to appoint Republican justices guaranteeing a Republican majority in the Supreme Court. This would be completely legal under the Amendment.

In essence, the Amendment establishes a system whereby the VA Supreme Court, as it exists in 2021 (6 Republicans and 1 Democrat) will choose the majority party of the Legislature in 2021 and that majority and the Supreme Court’s majority will be locked-in forever.

The amendment is opposed by the Democratic Party of Virginia, the Democratic Black Caucus of Virginia, founding board member, and former president of OneVirginia2021 Linda Perriello, among others.

Vote “NO” to the Constitutional Amendment #1

The rationale for ALL voters – Republican and Democrat

• The Amendment does nothing to ban political gerrymandering. Instead, it overrules the law that was passed this year to ban gerrymandering in redistricting in 2021;

• The Commission is not independent or non-partisan. Its membership is limited to those chosen by just four politicians: the party leaders in each house;

• The Legislature will set the rules for redistricting that the Commission has to follow, so the Legislature remains in control of the process;

• The “citizen” members are chosen by the two political parties, so they will be loyal party members;

• The Legislators on the Commission can veto the work of the citizen members. The Commission is a sham attempting to hide that fact that the power will stay in the Legislature;

• The timeline in the Amendment is untenable, guaranteeing the failure of the Commission and guaranteeing that the Supreme Court, which is chosen by the Legislature, will draw the district lines;

• The Amendment locks in the 2-party system because there is no representation of other political parties or independents;

• This Amendment has too many flaws to enshrine it in our Constitution. A Constitutional Amendment is too important to get wrong.

Answers to some of the questions that may be asked:

What will happen if the Amendment fails?

Last year, the Legislature passed a law that outlaws political and racial gerrymandering for 2021 redistricting. If the Amendment fails, the Legislature would be obligated to draw fair districting lines and their plan would be challengeable in court if it is politically or racially unfair.

I hear that OneVirginia2021 says that Democrats have changed their minds because they want their chance to gerrymander the State in favor of Democrats. The Democrats have always supported an independent commission for redistricting and OneVirginia2021 used to support this same goal. It’s OneVirginia2021 that has changed its mind.

If this is true, how did the Democrats let this Amendment get on the ballot? The Republicans inserted the “Poison Pill” at the last moment, and Legislators had only 20 minutes to review everything before the vote. Many Democrats felt it was a “good start” but now admit they made a bad mistake.

 

Learn More about Fair Districts and Why to Vote NO on Amendment #1
8:00 PMTuesday, September 29, 2020

Virginia: a rights battleground

A Republican-dominated general assembly is churning out laws that target the state’s new minorities

Virginia: a rights battleground

VIRGINIA prides itself on being a birthplace of enduring democratic traditions. It was here that America made its first foray into representative government: in 1619, the House of Burgesses was created to govern the Virginia colony in partnership with a governor appointed by the British crown.

A Republican-dominated General Assembly is churning out legislation targeting the new minorities: Asian and Hispanic immigrants and LGBT Virginians, all of whom have a growing presence in the vote-rich metropolitan areas that favour Democrats. Such legislation—and the pointed debate it engenders—sharply contrasts with the image of Virginia as a forward-thinking, Upper South state that began to emerge in 1989 with the victory of L. Douglas Wilder as the nation’s first African American governor.

And though Virginia is a suburban-dominated state in which the majority of residents are non-natives with increasingly moderate views that favour Democrats, hyper-partisan gerrymandering has allowed Republicans, for most of the past 15 years, to maintain a firm grip on the legislature.

The next governor, in 2021, will accept or reject new legislative boundaries based on the previous year’s census. Population growth and accelerating diversity favour the Democrats, but those trends can be blunted with gerrymandering. A map that favours the Republicans is almost certain to be put in place if there is a Republican governor to sign it.

That allows Republicans to focus on ideas that matter most to their narrowing, conservative and largely rural base. They do not appear to mind that this projects, to an audience beyond Virginia, a discomfiting picture of America’s 12th-largest state.

Republicans are also pushing a requirement that residents registering to vote must produce a birth certificate. Likely to be vetoed by Terry McAuliffe, the departing Democratic governor, the bill would be the latest obstacle to voting pressed by Republicans in what Democrats say is a continuing effort to suppress turnout of their most reliable voters: seniors, students, minorities, and foreign-born newcomers.

The debate over these issues is a preliminary proxy battle over higher stakes. In November, Virginia will choose a new governor. The election is likely to be viewed as early referendum on the Trump presidency. Republicans no longer control Virginia’s statewide offices, such as governor and United States senator. And they are desperate to win back the governorship, if only to perpetuate Republican legislative power into the 2030s.

Read the rest http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2017/02/fruits-gerrymandering

BREAKING: Virginia Supreme Court denies Republican effort to hold McAulffe in contempt

UPDATE: RICHMOND (September 15, 2016) — Attorney General Herring issued the following statement after the Supreme Court of Virginia rejected legislators’ motion to hold Governor McAuliffe in contempt for his efforts to restore Virginians’ voting rights:

“This contempt motion was completely baseless and I’m glad the Supreme Court dispatched it so quickly. Governor McAuliffe is doing the right thing in giving these Virginians back their voice and their vote and I hope the legislature will join the effort.” -Mark R. Herring, Attorney General

In a one-page order released Thursday, the Supreme Court said it would not require McAuliffe to return to court to prove that he is complying with the court’s July 22 ruling that struck down McAuliffe’s first attempt to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons via executive order.

The court also said it would not allow Republican General Assembly leaders to seek further documents through a new discovery process.

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With weeks to go before early voting begins in the presidential election, Republicans had sought to block thousands of felon voter registrations, arguing that McAuliffe’s revised process for issuing individual orders still thwarted the state’s constitutional policy of barring felons from voting.

http://www.richmond.com/news/virginia/article_397c5a9f-5695-521c-a791-fabae3e17812.html

For ex-offenders, a roller coaster ride to vote

“I don’t care what their politics are,” McAuliffe said in an interview Thursday while visiting the Dan River Region for an economic announcement. “I want them to vote.”

McAuliffe also countered the notion that his executive order was to earn Democratic voters or score political points — he said he wanted to help erase part of the commonwealth’s racist past.

State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Moneta, said he largely agreed with what McAuliffe’s actions had accomplished, voicing his support for an automatic restoration of rights for most ex-offenders.

“We are a nation of second chances,” Stanley said. “When you look at it individually, humans make mistakes.”

He also said he would change the part of Norment’s proposal limiting restoration to non-violent felons, explaining that the list of violent felonies included many not traditionally seen as violent.

The ex-offenders, along with the rest of Virginia citizens, have until Oct. 17 to complete their registrations. More information is available at Virginia’s Restoration of Rights website.

“We constantly expand that list and sometimes, I think, without justification,” he said. “We can’t make every human action a crime.”

http://www.godanriver.com/news/danville/for-ex-offenders-a-roller-coaster-ride-to-vote/article_84a96aea-7939-11e6-8f3b-d3cca7230846.html

Voter registration is the antidote to voter suppression

True South: Unleashing Democracy 50 Years After the Mississippi Summer Project

True South: Unleashing Democracy 50 Years After the Mississippi Summer Project

The conventional wisdom in the South is that despite gains on the local level, candidates who represent the views of people of color cannot win statewide office. But this conventional wisdom ignores the numbers. In 2012 there were 3.7 million unregistered black voters, 3.2 million unregistered Hispanics and 750,000 unregistered Asians in the Black Belt.

VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF ELECTIONS CITIZEN PORTAL

The Freedom Summer activists understood that politics is at least in part a numbers game. We need to realize that communities of color have the potential to shift the balance of power in the U.S South through sheer force of numbers. Voter registration can make the future come faster in the Black Belt, and 50 years after Freedom Summer, it is time for another bold leap forward.

Voter registration is the antidote to voter suppression

We have the antidote to voter suppression. In fact, we’ve always had it. We have known what it is for at least half a century. Fifty years ago this month, Freedom Summer activists risked life and limb to register voters in Mississippi and spread the gospel of democracy across the southern United States.

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