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

Our nation needs a leader to ‘turn on the lights’

FILE – In this July 6, 2020, file photo, Dr. Joseph Varon, right, leads a team as they try to save the life of a patient unsuccessfully inside the Coronavirus Unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. America’s failure so far to contain the spread of the coronavirus as it moves across the country has been met with astonishment and alarm on both sides of the Atlantic. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)

 

By David Reuther

In the darkest days of the Great Depression, after the stock market crashed, half the banks had failed and 15 million people were out of work as the economy bottomed out, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt acted boldly to address the uncertainties and fear that gripped people. He united Americans.

Today, we are struggling with a situation similar to, but in some ways worse than, what was faced by FDR. Thanks to the worldwide pandemic and the administration’s response, not only are more than 30 million people out of work, but more than 180,000 are dead. Instances of police brutality have sparked nationwide protests.

Instead of promoting unity, however, President Donald Trump on Fox News’ Laura Ingraham show recently talked of people in the “dark shadows” who are “controlling” presidential candidate Joe Biden and “thugs” in dark clothing flying into Washington, D.C., to stage violence. On the same show, he claimed, falsely, that Portland, Oregon, had been burning for years.

Asserting that America has descended into chaos and its cities are burning, Trump wants us to forget that if this is true, it is happening on his watch.

To anyone old enough to remember the 1967 Detroit riots, the unrest that followed the 1968 murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., or the 1992 police beating of Rodney King, today’s Portland and Kenosha events barely register on the chaos scale.

Trump’s insertion of multi-agency federal troops and mercenaries inflamed these situations, not only in Portland but also right across from the White House at St. John’s Church near Lafayette Square. None of his actions have contributed to public safety.

And what are we to make of Trump, or Culpeper’s Jon Russell, implying that Black Lives Matter marches cause suburban women and children to quake in fear? This is an old dog whistle, which was employed by racist real-estate agents and bankers in the 1950s and ‘60s to keep minorities out of white neighborhoods.

Most of Culpeper’s neighborhoods are a rich combination of races, creeds, ages, and political viewpoints. Today’s “suburbanites” are nothing like those of 70 years ago.

This summer’s Black Lives March in Culpeper and hundreds more in cities and towns all across American were nonviolent examples of our right to peaceably assemble, guaranteed by our Constitution.

Some who may have been fearful appeared to be the St. Louis couple who brandished firearms at peaceful marchers as they passed their door and the 17-year-old in Kenosha who killed two protesters and wounded a third, in cold blood. The St. Louis couple was made heroes at the Republican National Convention. And Trump has defended, rather than condemned, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse.

Many parents have had to deal with their children’s fears of “monsters under the bed.” The patient parent turned on the lights to show that there was nothing there.

Now, America needs a responsible adult in the Oval Office who will “turn on the lights” and express empathy, inspire hope and faith in the future, and marshal the nation’s considerable resources to defeat the pandemic, attack racial and economic inequities, and restore America’s place in the world.

In contrast to Republican assertions, Joe Biden has responded to these crises as a unifier who understands the need to govern for the common good. He recently remarked, “I want a safe America, safe from COVID, safe from crime and looting, safe from racially motivated violence, safe from bad cops.”

Biden promotes law and order. He clearly stated, “Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. It is lawlessness plain and simple, and those who do it should be prosecuted.”

Vote like your lives depends upon it because they do.

David Reuther, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer, is past chair of the Culpeper Democratic Committee. These are his personal observations.

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!

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Vote NO on 1

Why We Oppose Constitutional Amendment #1