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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

A Conversation with Delegate Mark Levine about Redistricting

A conversation with Delegate Mark Levine (D-45) about the Constitutional Amendment that will be on November’s Virginia ballot. Mark’s position is summarized on his website at https://markfordelegate.com/content/primer-gerrymandering.

The amendment is opposed by the Democratic Black Caucus of Virginia, founding board member and former president of OneVirginia2021 Linda Perriello, Delegate Patrick Hope (D-47), Delegate Alfonso Lopez (D-49), Delegate Rip Sullivan (D-48), the Arlington and Fairfax Democratic Committees, the Executive Committee of the Madison Dems, and the Democratic Party of Virginia.

Note: the first few minutes of the conversation were inadvertently not recorded.

As it begins, the delegate is referring to the ability of just 2 Delegates or Senators to scuttle the “independent” commission and push redistricting to the VA Supreme court who would be free to produce a map unfettered by any restrictions on the process or recourse in the courts because they are the court. They could even select a special master, think Ken Cuccinelli, to do draw up the plan for them. The Delegate also talks about the self-sustaining feedback loop that this amendment will provide. All but one of the current members of the VA Supreme Court were appointed to their 12-year terms by the then Republican-controlled legislature. They would then be reappointed by the legislature whose districts they are tasked with drawing. One of these VA Supreme Court justices is the sister of a current Republican legislator. She could help craft his district. One current VA Supreme Court justice is a close ally of Ken Cuccinelli, former Republican Attorney General, and currently one of the top dogs in the Trump administration as the Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Let me be clear…I am voting NO on this amendment. ~E.D.

Fair Districts | Virginia | Vote NO on 1

Fair Districts VA – VOTE NO on Amendment 1 to establish the Virginia Redistricting Commission, a non-partisan, transparent organization designated to draw political district boundaries every 10 years.

Trump admin cooking the books on COVID-19 in order to win re-election

New CDC guidelines quietly put out on Monday no longer recommend testing for asymptomatic people even if they’ve been in contact with someone who has the coronavirus. This new rule appears to reflect Trump’s frequent complaints that widespread testing is responsible for our climbing numbers of coronavirus cases. (He is incorrect.) He has repeatedly said we should slow the testing down. A White House spokesperson said the decision was science-based and not political; American Medical Association President Dr. Susan Bailey asked the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services to “release the scientific justification” for the changes.

“The only plausible rationale is they want fewer people taking tests because, as the president has said, if we don’t take tests you won’t know that people are Covid positive and the number of Covid positive people will come down,” Cuomo told reporters Wednesday. “It fosters his failed policy of denial,” he said of the President.

The spokesperson told reporters that the White House Coronavirus Task Force had signed off on the new guidelines, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the task force told CNN that he was not part of any such discussion. “I am concerned about the interpretation of these recommendations and worried it will give people the incorrect assumption that asymptomatic spread is not of great concern. In fact, it is,” he said. Other members of the task force also expressed alarm about the new rules.

CDC was pressured ‘from the top down’ to change coronavirus testing guidance, official says

A sudden change in federal guidelines on coronavirus testing came this week as a result of pressure from the upper ranks of the Trump administration, a federal health official close to the process tells CNN.

An open letter from Linda Perriello

Linda Perriello

No stranger to long-time members of the Madison County Democratic Committee, Founding Board Member and former President of OneVirginia2021, Linda Perriello posted this heartfelt letter on her Facebook page on Monday evening.

Many of you know of my active involvement in redistricting reform and have been asked about my position on Virginia’s Redistricting Amendment to be voted on in November. It makes sense to me to try addressing this important issue in one place, as painful of a topic as it has become for me.

A number of years ago, I plunged headlong into the movement for redistricting reform in Virginia, joining a dedicated group of advocates who had already spent nearly a decade fighting against the odds to change the Constitution of the Commonwealth. Our goal: to end gerrymandering and its heinous consequences. We had two simple slogans that said it all: ‘You’ve Been Gerrymandered’ and ‘Citizens should pick their representatives, instead of politicians picking their voters’. The conventional wisdom said we had no chance to move an issue that was far too complex for voters to understand and a non-starter with what was then a gerrymandered partisan majority.

These pundits underestimated just how fed up the public was with a rigged political system and how dearly we valued our right to hold our representatives accountable. Working tirelessly and putting in thousands of miles and hours, we spread across the Commonwealth to town halls and polling places to educate the public. Crowds enthusiastically embraced reform and voters literally grabbed petitions out of our hands to sign them. OneVirginia2021, the organization forming the heart and head of the fight to end gerrymandering, established an impressive bipartisan committee that included esteemed figures like Wyatt Durrette and A.E.Dick Howard to draft an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth. They produced a draft amendment that all Virginians could truly be proud of – no politicians, no partisanship, no gerrymandering. We were ready to put the people back in charge of democracy and to drive a stake into the heart of the gerrymander.

Sadly, the conventional wisdom struck back with a vengeance. During the make-or-break 2019 General Assembly session, the draft amendment was given less than cursory consideration by the Virginia Senate and without a serious push to find a patron— Republican or Democratic — for the Amendment in the House, the draft amendment failed. Instead, leaders from both parties produced a substitute amendment designed to look like reform, while keeping power solidly in the hands of party leadership.

I was desperate to salvage the Amendment, and encouraged many pro-reform Delegates to accept half a loaf, believing there might be improvements before the final version. But what emerged from the conference committee at the eleventh hour of the last day of the General Assembly was an Amendment that accomplished neither of the goals we had worked so hard to pass: gerrymandering was neither mentioned nor specifically prohibited and the ‘independent’ commission drawing the maps would be composed of 50% politicians, who in turn would have significant power to select the remaining 50% of members. General Assembly members were given less than an hour to make a decision about supporting an Amendment, details of which they had neither seen nor read.

Over the months following initial passage, many Democrats, especially the members of the House VLBC, worked valiantly to write and pass enabling legislation in the 2020 session that was supposed to ‘fix’ the shortcomings in the Amendment. Sadly, the most important of these reforms failed to pass. These failed fixes, acknowledged by pro-reform advocates and courageously supported by Speaker Filler-Corn, would have provided guardrails for who could or could not serve on the Commission, explicitly prohibited gerrymandering, and provided adequate guarantees for participation by persons of color. The sad truth this all revealed is that the Richmond power brokers had done something far more insidious than defeat fair districts. They had consolidated power and done it in a way that got them accolades for advancing ‘reform’.

After devoting eight years of my life to ending partisan gerrymandering, I will sadly vote NO on the Amendment this November. I believe that the current Amendment is not a partial victory but a roadblock to real reform that still must come in the years ahead. We can start again with a good amendment next year while pressuring the current majority to draw maps as close to our original principles as possible. As for the amendment Virginia needs and deserves, we already have it written and waiting for fair consideration!

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform

The proposed platform was considered by the 2020 Platform Committee at its meeting on July 27, 2020, and is recommended for approval by the delegates.

PREAMBLE (link to full document below)

America is an idea—one that has endured and evolved through war and depression prevailed over fascism and communism, and radiated hope to far-distant corners of the earth. Americans believe that diversity is our greatest strength. That protest is among the highest forms of patriotism. That our fates and fortunes are bound to rise and fall together. That even when we fall short of our highest ideals, we never stop trying to build a more perfect union.

When the American people go to the polls this fall, we will be choosing more than a candidate. Character is on the ballot in this election. The character of our President, yes, but more than that: the character of our democracy, our society, and our leadership in the world.

The challenges before us—the worst public health crisis in a century, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the worst period of global upheaval in a generation, the urgent global crisis posed by climate change, the intolerable racial injustice that still stains the fabric of our nation—will test America’s character like never before.

The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare deep-seated problems in our society—the fragility of our economy and social safety net, the risks posed by growing inequality, the impacts of racial and economic disparities on health and well-being, and the profound consequences of deepening polarization and political paralysis.

The bill has come due on the Trump Administration’s hollowing out of our public institutions: the sidelining of experts, the rejection of science, the underinvestment in research, and the gross corruption and abuses of power. President Trump’s dereliction of duty has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans, the loss of tens of millions of American jobs, and lasting harm to our children’s education and future.

And it has revealed, at tragic economic and human cost, the emptiness of the Republican Party’s “America First” foreign policy. Under President Trump, America stands alone. Friends and foes alike neither admire nor fear President Trump’s leadership—they dismiss and ridicule it. The Republican Party under President Trump has made America small—when we are a people called to do the greatest things.

Democrats will fight to repair the soul of this nation. To unite and to heal our country. To turn this crisis into a crucible, from which we will forge a stronger, brighter, and more equitable future.

We must right the wrongs in our democracy, redress the systemic injustices that have long plagued our society, throw open the doors of opportunity for all Americans, and reinvent our institutions at home and our leadership abroad. We do not simply aspire to return our country to where we were four years ago. We know we must be bolder and more ambitious.

We must once again stop another Republican recession from becoming a second Great Depression. President Trump and the Republican Party have rigged the economy in favor of the wealthiest few and the biggest corporations and left working families and small businesses out in the cold. Democrats will forge a new social and economic contract with the American people—a contract that creates millions of new jobs and promotes shared prosperity, close racial gaps in income and wealth, guarantee the right to join or form a union, raises wages and ensures equal pay for women and paid family leave for all and safeguards a secure and dignified retirement.

We must guarantee health care not as a privilege for some, but as a right for every single American. For a century, Democrats have fought to secure universal health care. In the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump and the Republican Party are trying to tear health care away from millions of people who depend on it for survival. Democrats will not allow that to happen. We will not rest until every American can access quality health care and affordable prescription drugs.

We must steel and strengthen our democracy, not distort and debase it. Democrats believe there is nothing to fear from the voices and votes of the American people. We will restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act and stamp out voter suppression in all its forms. We will curb the corrupting influence of money in politics and protect the integrity of our elections from all enemies, foreign and domestic. We will never accept political gridlock as our fate. We will never tire in our fight to deliver results and create an opportunity for all Americans. And we will end the war on a government that has politicized our institutions, denigrated public service, and left the American people on their own instead of working to make them whole.

We must heal our nation’s deepest wounds, not fan the flames of hate. Democrats will root out structural and systemic racism in our economy and our society, and reform our criminal justice system from top to bottom because we believe Black lives matter. We will ensure that our nation continues to prize diversity and compassion, and welcomes those who yearn to participate in our great democratic experiment by creating a humane, 21st-century immigration system that benefits all Americans.

We will give hate no safe harbor. We will never amplify or legitimize the voices of racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, or white supremacy. Democrats will protect and promote the equal rights of all our citizens—women, LGBTQ+ people, religious minorities, people with disabilities, Native Americans, and all who have been discriminated against in too many ways and for too many generations. We commit ourselves to the vision articulated by Frederick Douglass of “a Government founded upon justice, and recognizing the equal rights of all.”

We must lead the world in taking on the climate crisis, not deny the science and accelerate the damage. From Houston, Texas, to Mexico Beach, Florida; from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Davenport, Iowa, the last four years have seen record-breaking storms, devastating wildfires, and historic floods. Democrats will rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement and go further, building a thriving, equitable, and globally competitive clean energy economy that puts workers and communities first, and leaves no one behind.

We must provide a world-class education in every ZIP code, to every child, because education is a critical public good. Democrats believe in universal early childhood education, and affordable, high-quality child care. We will shut down the school-to-prison pipeline, and build a school-to-opportunity pipeline in its place. We will make college affordable again, and give Americans relief from crushing student debt.

We commit to a foreign policy that accelerates our domestic renewal, not undermines it. We will focus on what matters most to Americans—more and better jobs, greater security, a cleaner environment, and a more inclusive and resilient society. Democrats will lead with diplomacy as our tool of first resort and mobilize our allies and partners to meet the tests none of us can meet on our own. We will stand up to the forces of authoritarianism, not aid and abet their rise, and we will speak and act with clarity and purpose on behalf of human rights wherever they are under threat. And we will honor our sacred covenant with our women and men in uniform, our veterans, and our military families who have carried the burdens of wars that must—at long last—come to an end.

Above all, Democrats still believe in the American idea—its principles, its purpose, and its promise. We know that four more years of the crass, craven, corrupt leadership we have seen from Donald Trump and the Republican Party will damage our character and our country beyond repair. We pray, as Langston Hughes did, “O, let America be America again—the land that never has been yet—and yet must be—the land where man is free.” Democrats call on all Americans to come together and seize this last, best chance to restore the soul of our nation—and vote this November to ensure our greatest days are still to come.

 

Download 2020-07-31-Democratic-Party-Platform-For-Distribution.pdf

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Why We Oppose Constitutional Amendment #1