Editor: The state constitutional amendment related to redistricting (Question #1) on the Nov. 3 ballot proposes an alternative to the way our representative districts are drawn by our legislature. While some improvement over the existing process, it does not remove the impact of partisan political influence.
What is being proposed is a 16-member commission: eight legislative and eight citizen members selected by two party leaders in each house of the legislature. If any two members of the commission do not approve the resulting redistricting plan, or the General Assembly does not approve the commission’s plan, the Virginia Supreme Court will draw our election districts. Members of Virginia’s courts, including the Supreme Court, are selected by Virginia legislators.
Supporters of this proposed amendment largely support it because, if we do not, they say, we will have to wait another 10 years before getting better redistricting reform. I’ll call this a “bird in the hand” theory of making law.
Others who support the amendment say we can correct any deficiencies in the proposed amendment through later legislation. That can only be accomplished in one of two ways, both uncertain and cumbersome. Either the legislature would have to agree to pass the amendment during two separate legislative sessions and then refer the amendment to voters, or amend through a constitutional convention, a procedure that hasn’t been used by the legislature in 150 years.
In deciding whether to accept or reject this proposed amendment, we should look at the language in the statute as it is, and assume – correctly – that we must live with it in perpetuity if voters vote “yes.”
Karen Kimball, Arlington