When the Supreme Court tells you to reconsider your decisions, it might be an indication you’ve completely disregarded the Constitution.
That’s the case in Virginia, which was directed to reexamine some (very) suspicious redistricting that might have been (was definitely) politically motivated and probably (yes definitely) racist.
BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!
Let’s talk about redistricting. Drawing and redrawing district lines is intended to draw equally populated districts without lines denying minority voters equal opportunity “to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice.”
Politically-motivated redistricting generally aims to “give” your opponents a tiny number of “safe” districts and create more comfortable districts for yourself and your political party. This is often called gerrymandering.
After the 2010 census, the Republican majority in the Virginia General Assembly took a fine tipped pen and redrew the boundaries of all the legislative districts in the state. The United States Supreme Court recently ordered those districts reexamined after learning politicians mandated each district have a minimum of 55% black voters.
Cramming black voters into these districts dilutes the impact of the black vote in other districts in Virginia, creating “safe” districts for Republicans.
For fun (and definitely not to demonstrate the length Republicans will go to keep their elected office seats safe) here’s a look at the districts held by our state lawmakers, and which presidential candidate won that district in 2016.
It should be noted Republicans hold 66 out of 100 seats in the House of Delegates, even though in statewide elections Virginia has been trending blue.
RE-EXAMINING: PUNTING OR A FOURTH-DOWN CONVERSION?
The SCOTUS ruling directs a district court to reexamine the drawing of the legislative districts under different legal standards to see if GOP leaders sought to weaken the influence of black voters. Essentially, the Supreme Court punted the decision to a lower court while telling them they didn’t do the job right the first time around.
It’s unclear if a court decision will make an impact before the upcoming 2017 elections when every House of Delegates seat is on the ballot, or if (and when) lines will be redrawn. But after a 2017 legislative session where redistricting bills were promptly dismissed, the SCOTUS decision is a strong win for anyone who believes voters should choose elected officials instead of politicians drawing lines to rig their own elections.
We must have elected officials who are accountable to voters and not to their own arbitrary desires for power.
A WAY FORWARD FOR FAIR AND IMPARTIAL ELECTION MAPS?
For years political parties have gone back and forth drawing and redrawing voting districts to their benefit, not the people. Even worse, they admit it!
Instead of waiting years and wading through the political red-tape, politicians and their political parties should be taken out of the equation. An independent body would ensure that come Election day, all voters have an equal say.
There’s another option. Virginia has an election this fall. Use your voice to tell candidates what you expect in redistricting, attend a debate, talk to your neighbors, and be sure to register to vote.