Legislation Failed to Reign in Gerrymandering Abuses Invalidated by Federal Court
Today we applaud Governor Ralph Northam’s veto of HB1598 and SB106! The bills, sponsored by Delegate Chris Jones and Senator David Sutterlein, purported to reform Virginia’s redistricting while failing to make any substantive changes to curtail politicians’ ability to rig elections.
“Voters should choose their elected officials, not the other way around,” said Progress Virginia executive director Anna Scholl. “Politicians in the General Assembly crafted a cynical ploy pretending to reform the process by which they’re able to rig elections while making no real changes. We thank Governor Northam for recognizing these bills for what they are–an attempt to pull the wool over voters’ eyes.”
These bills simply restated criteria included in the Constitution of Virginia while failing to reign in the abuses that led to a federal court invalidating Virginia’s third congressional district in 2016. SB106/HB1598 failed to provide protections for communities of color and specifically excluded such communities from examples of “communities of interest.” Federal courts ruled in 2016 that the General Assembly had unconstitutionally packed voters of color into the 3rd congressional district to reduce their influence at the ballot box elsewhere. SB106/HB1598 also failed to prohibit so-called “political gerrymandering.” The bills include no prohibition on the use of partisan political data to advantage one partisan group above another in drawing district boundaries. Unfettered use of such data has been a key tool for politicians to essentially rig elections by drawing districts where they cannot lose, undermining our core democratic principles.