Del. Marcus Simon

Virginians deserve free and fair elections. We deserve an opportunity to make our voices heard.

For years, though, conservative politicians have done everything they can to consolidate power and to ensure their re-elections. By deliberately drawing district maps to dilute the power of communities of color, a small minority of white male elites extended their power by limiting the voting power of the rest of us.

This November, there will be a constitutional amendment on the ballot — Amendment 1 — that will, once again, allow politicians and political parties to pick their voters instead of voters picking their representatives, while doing little to ensure Black and Brown Virginians have an equal voice in our democracy.

If approved by voters, this deeply flawed amendment would shift the power to redraw congressional and state legislative districts from the 140-member General Assembly to a 16-member commission composed of legislators and citizens.

However, House and Senate party leaders would still choose these commission members, erasing any veneer of independence on the commission and locking in the power of a small group of politicians to draw political district boundaries.

Republicans support this amendment because they think it will help them maintain their power by diluting the influence of Black and Brown people who will be left out in the cold if it is passed.

Without clear protections for minority voters, this amendment will only help those who are drawing the maps. If passed, gerrymandering will essentially be written into the Constitution of Virginia.

Since drafting the Virginia Constitution, lawmakers have restricted the voting ability of Black people and carved out state legislative maps to ensure a lasting political stronghold throughout the commonwealth.

We need redistricting maps created by non-partisan experts to ensure that communities of color are protected, that politics are taken out of the process, and that there is transparency every step of the way.

The question is not whether we need to change the way we do redistricting—we absolutely do. The change we choose matters. With Amendment 1, legislators are still entrenched in the system, making it impossible to have an independent or non-partisan process.

The people of Virginia, not our legislators, should decide who represents us. We need to create competitive districts that give voters genuine choices at the ballot box. It is worth the wait to pass an amendment that is fair to all of us, not a select few who hope to gain political capital at the expense of many.

We need to vote NO on this partisan political power grab and ensure that the power stays with the people.

Marcus Simon is a Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates. He represents the 53rd District, which includes the city of Falls Church and surrounding areas of Fairfax County.

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