What supporters and opponents say about a plan to stop gerrymandering in Virginia

Aside from picking President Donald Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden, voters in Virginia have another important choice to make: whether to vote yes or no on a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at stopping gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is the practice of working to manipulate voting districts unfairly to gain an advantage, or to disadvantage opponents.

The plan would create a new 16-member redistricting commission that would be in charge of drawing Congressional and legislative district lines, and sending the maps to the General Assembly for approval.

Currently, the Virginia General Assembly does all the drawing before the governor OKs the maps.

The amendment calls for members of the public to make up half the commission, and state lawmakers the other half.

The lawmaker-members would be chosen by party leadership in the state Senate and the House of Delegates, with an equal number from each political party. The citizen-members would be picked by a committee of five retired circuit court judges.


Bobby Vassar co-chairs the group FairMapsVA, which is pushing for passage of the plan.

“If you do not pass the amendment that makes significant improvements, substantial improvements in the way this is done, you are preserving the status quo. We are right back at square one,” Vassar said Wednesday night during a virtual discussion of the proposed amendment.

“We can reverse the trend that it’s devolved into, of legislators picking their voters, rather than the voters picking their legislators,” he said.

The proposal caused a split among Democrats in the legislature.

The Democratic Party of Virginia opposes the measure.

Opponents, including Del. Lamont Bagby, who chairs Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus, say the proposed change doesn’t go far enough to keep politics out of the process and ensure Black voters aren’t left out.

Bagby and Del. Mark Levine wrote a column about the issue that was published last month in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Michelle Basch

Michelle Basch is a reporter and anchor at WTOP.

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