What does Virginia’s redistricting amendment change?

Printable version

The Status Quo:

Process

Districts drawn by the General Assembly

Zero requirements for transparency or public engagement

Redistricting occurs the year following the Census, but the General Assembly can also choose to redistrict mid-decade

Map drawing criteria

SB717 & the current constitution: contiguous, compactness, equal population requirement, preservation of communities of interest, prohibits partisan and racial gerrymandering

Fallback mechanism

The Supreme Court of Virginia would adjudicate maps if a case is filed claiming districts are gerrymandered. If the court rules new districts must be drawn, the General Assembly continues to be in charge of redistricting

Result: gerrymandering

Commission Amendment:

Process

Districts drawn by a bipartisan-balanced commission with 8 citizens and 8 legislators who must agree on maps by a super majority vote

Transparency mandated through public meetings, hearings, and data

Redistricting occurs the year following the Census and mid-decade redistricting is functionally impossible

Map drawing criteria

Same criteria as the Status Quo + amended constitution: adding historic civil rights protections for racial and ethnic minorities in the Virginia Constitution

Fallback Mechanism

If the commission can’t agree, the Virginia Supreme Court intervenes and will appoint a “Special Master” to redraw districts according to criteria above

Result: a historic improvement

Enabling Legislation:

Process

Districts drawn by amendment’s commission with added requirements from SB203 mandating diversity and restricting previous or active Party employees

Additional transparency through the Freedom of Information Act, open commission application process  and public participation in the Court’s redistricting deliberations

Same timing of redistricting as the Amendment

Map drawing criteria

Same criteria as the Amendment

Fallback Mechanism

If the commission can’t agree, the Court must appoint two Special Masters, allow public participation, and justices who are related to members of the General Assembly must recuse themselves

Result: additional safeguards

What’s on the Virginia ballot about redistricting

We believe that amending the constitution is the only way to clarify a partisan legislature’s role in redistricting. The current method for drawing new districts (which happens every ten years after a census) is outlined inArticle II, Section 6 of the current Virginia Constitution: “electoral districts (are) established by the General Assembly.” However, there are many limitations of the current system.

Read about the
Virginia Redistricting Amendment
on Ballotpedia

This ballot initiative on the November 2020 ballot would amend this Article of the Constitution of Virginia to take the sole power away from the legislature, which usually (because of political party majorities) has an incentive to redraw the lines in favor of one political party or the other. Here’s what the ballot measure says:


Should the Constitution of Virginia be amended to establish a redistricting commission, consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth, that is responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts that will be subsequently voted on, but not changed by, the General Assembly and enacted without the Governor’s involvement and to give the responsibility of drawing districts to the Supreme Court of Virginia if the redistricting commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to enact districts by certain deadlines?


The Senate of Virginia unanimously approved a simplified explanation for voters that need extra guidance. It reads:

A “yes” vote supports transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission composed of state legislators and citizens.

A “no” vote opposes transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts to a redistricting commission, thus keeping the state legislature responsible for redistricting.

In other words, if the amendment fails, Virginia’s unfair redistricting laws remain in place. Politicians will continue to have free rein to pick their voters behind closed doors, regardless of which party is in charge. Nothing will be in place to legally require them to change the status quo in 2021.

Print off this postcard and mail it to everyone you know in Virginia!

Print off this postcard and mail it to everyone you know in Virginia!

Get excited! There’s a Redistricting Amendment on the Virginia ballot November 3

Reporting from the Virginia Pilot

Get excited – there’s a big change coming to Virginia politics, and you can be a part of it when you vote this fall. Along with all the famous people on the ballot this fall, there is a new Virginia constitutional amendment for the state’s voters to consider. Two consecutive General Assemblies (first with a Republican majority, second with a Democrat majority) voted to approve this Virginia amendment, and final step to ratify is approval by a majority of voters.

Study the wording of the amendment before you start to vote your ballot this fall – like all constitutional amendments, the language isn’t necessarily easy to read, but you can spend some time with it beforehand so you’re prepared.

Based on how both parties in Virginia have reacted to this amendment, at different times, it doesn’t favor either Democrats or Republicans – it is designed to be a brake on the runaway power of either party. It’s an opportunity for voters to cast a vote not for either party but for a system that prevents either party from making all the rules about who gets to be a representative in Richmond.


What the ballot will say:

Should the Constitution of Virginia be amended to establish a redistricting commission, consisting of eight members of the General Assembly and eight citizens of the Commonwealth, that is responsible for drawing the congressional and state legislative districts that will be subsequently voted on, but not changed by, the General Assembly and enacted without the Governor’s involvement and to give the responsibility of drawing districts to the Supreme Court of Virginia if the redistricting commission fails to draw districts or the General Assembly fails to enact districts by certain deadlines?


Our state has a history of highly partisan districts where legislators run unopposed for years or win over and over in non-competitive races. These districts happen because they are drawn when one party or the other is in power in the state legislature, and they want to preserve their power to keep getting more easy seats for their party. The redistricting amendment is a good faith effort by legislators to limit partisan gerrymandering. It means that future General Assemblies in Richmond will have less power to create voting districts that overwhelmingly favor one party or another; instead, it promotes creating more competitive election districts which limit extreme partisanship.


The Senate of Virginia unanimously approved a simplified explanation for voters that need extra guidance. It reads:

A “yes” vote supports transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a redistricting commission composed of state legislators and citizens.

A “no” vote opposes transferring the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts to a redistricting commission, thus keeping the state legislature responsible for redistricting


For more information, check out the advocacy of One Virginia 2021 and Fair Maps VA. You can print off this postcard in support of this amendment and send it to your friends anywhere in Virginia. Look at interactive maps of the current districts to get an idea of what is there now. Study the wording of the amendment before you start to vote your ballot this fall – like all constitutional amendments, the language isn’t necessarily easy to read, but you can spend some time with it beforehand so you’re prepared.

Civics 101: The FIGHT for VOTING RIGHTS IN AMERICA: Past, Present & Future

CIVICS 101 webinar #2
Tuesday, July 21 at 4 p.m.

A good way to catch up on the context for Virginia’s changes to election laws and rules coming for the November election.


For LWV members & the public; please pass this on to friends or organizations that may be interested

  • How did voting rights in our Constitution evolve since 1787?
  • What did our Founding Fathers envision about voting?
  • What is the history of the power of voting in America?

This second Civics 101 webinar from the Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters, co-sponsored with the Williamsburg Regional Library, will answer these questions, review the effects of Jim Crow laws and prepare voters for the recent changes in election laws in Virginia.  

Save this LINK to join the webinar at 4 pm on Tuesday, July 21.

The Williamsburg Area League of Women Voters is developing these CIVICS 101 webinars to fill the void as  the pandemic has upended learning in schools across the United States and prevented the League from holding meetings. Thank you, Williamsburg Regional Library, for suggesting the concept!

Voting in Virginia

If everything goes right, voting is quick and easy – but there are laws, regulations, and election quirks that can mess you up. This includes some COVID-19 specific information, like what to put as your absentee vote by mail reason on the paperwork to request an absentee ballot.

You can check your personal voter status at elections.virginia.gov, and request an absentee ballot to be mailed to you.

League Advocacy Challenge

Try for the prize!  In the right sidebar on our website, you will see the Advocacy Challenge link. This advocacy challenge is active during 2020 Virginia General Assembly session, which ends in April 2020.

  • League members use this form to “log their advocacy” every time they’ve had a meeting, called a state legislator, tabled for their issue, or written a letter to the editor. The Local League that logs the most contacts with their lawmakers on the Advocacy Challenge form will win a $650 cash prize at Council in 2020. There are lesser prizes for second and third place, too. Every Local League president I’ve spoken with is hoping their League will win.
  • Friendly competition makes it fun. 
  • Click the link to report in and get counted for the Challenge. 
  • Every League has the ability to win, because we weight the results by the membership size of the League. A big League won’t automatically beat a small League.
  • When we send emailed Action Alerts, the software we use automatically counts your emails to lawmakers, so you won’t need to log your action for those. 

After League Day, we will also want people to submit “after action reports” on their League Day meetings. Those are at the link Submit Meeting Notes.

Redistricting Update: We’re Not There Yet

by Phoebe Kent, Voter editor

Quoted material below from Jackie Rivas, LWV Arlington (from October 2019 Virginia Voter)

“Virginia has an historic opportunity that we can’t let slip away. In the 2019 General Assembly, our legislators passed House Joint Resolution No. 615. HJR 615 is a constitutional amendment to create a citizen-led redistricting commission to draw the voting districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, and the Senate and the House of Delegates of the Virginia General Assembly in 2021, after the 2020 Census. This citizen-led redistricting commission would drag the map-drawing out of the smoke-filled back rooms of Richmond and expose it to the cleansing rays of the sun.”

Eight commissioners will be citizen members appointed by retired circuit court judges; two Delegates and two Senators from each party constitute the other eight. Meetings of the commission will be open to the public. It will hold public hearings across the Commonwealth to receive and consider citizen comments. Its records and documents will be considered public information.

The General Assembly passed the amendment to establish the commission 2019; we had an election on November 5, and now the amendment must be passed – verbatim, with nary a comma change – a second time by the General Assembly in 2020. The League and OneVirginia2021 hope to ensure that that happens. The amendment would be on the ballot on November 3, 2020. A separate enabling bill must also pass that determines how district lines will be drawn that specifically prohibits favoring or disfavoring a party or individual; that keeps intact communities of interest; compactness; other implementation requirements.

After census data is collected in 2020, it will be released in 2021 and redistricting will occur. We are hopeful that a fairer process – a redistricting commission – will be in place by then for drawing legislative districts. Make sure your representatives know that you want this to happen.

LWV-VA Pre-Session Women’s Legislative Roundtable

Prepare for the 2020 General Assembly Session


Get Your Tickets Here


Please join us at the LWV-VA Pre-Session on December 4 to prepare for advocacy and action in the 2020 General Assembly Session and network with Virginia advocacy groups!
This is your opportunity to hear about our legislative priorities and those of our many partners around the Commonwealth. At this Roundtable, advocacy experts from many nonprofit organizations come to speak about their priority issues and legislation, and give their predictions on what may or may not happen during the 2020 General Assembly Session.

Each expert will Predict and Preview where Action will be needed. These experts, 15 to 20 each year, have experience lobbying on the Front Lines in our General Assembly so they provide specific, ready-to-use advocacy/action messages. Not only do advocacy experts preview legislation but one or two Cabinet Secretaries come to describe important issues for the upcoming General Assembly session.
This annual meeting in December prepares us to visit our own legislators at home even before the General Assembly convenes in January.

Virginia Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne will be the first speaker to share his insights on the priorities and challenges of Governor Northam’s administration. After he speaks, about 20 speakers will each have about 5 to 7 minutes each to share their legislative priorities and concerns in the upcoming Session. Some areas that will be covered by the speakers are
elections, voting rights, transparency in government, education, women’s rights, gun violence prevention & public safety, healthcare, juvenile justice, transportation, and environmental issues.

Other Speakers include:
Brian Cannon One VA 2021
Chris Piper Commissioner of Elections
Walt Latham VRAV Voter Registrars Association of Virginia
Andy Goddard VACPS Virginia Center for Public Safety
Megan Rhyne VCOG Virginia Center for Open Government
Ashna Khana ACLU American Civil Liberties Union
Kati Hornung VAratifyERA Campaign
Tarina Keene NARAL – Naral Pro Choice Virginia
Jill Hanken VPLC Virginia Poverty Law Center
Kim Bobo VICPP Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy
Chris Duncombe TCI The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis
Rhonda Thissen NAMI National Alliance of Mental Health of Virginia
Corrina Beall Sierra Club / VA Chapter
Danny Plaugher VTA Virginia Transit Association
Sylvia Rogers AAUW American Association of University Women
Brian Koziol Executive Director of Virginia Housing Alliance

Attend our breakfast and hear speakers from our partner organizations in the morning for $20.

A full day pass that includes breakfast, all day speakers and a plated lunch with a special presenter is $50.
If you wish to pay by check, just select that option and either bring a check for the exact amount made out to League of Women Voters of Virginia Education Fund or mail to

Treasurer, 804 Ridge Place, Falls Church, VA 22046.

This event, in addition to providing a lot of good information, also provides opportunities to meet with and network with others who share similar interests and concerns.

MAKING DEMOCRACY WORK

Virginia General Assembly
Virginia General Assembly


Voting is a start, but advocacy is now needed. And 2 opportunities wait for you.
1) Join Williamsburg Area League members who are going to Richmond on Wednesday, December 4 for the annual “PRE-SESSION” Legislative Round Table, from 9 am-3 pm (or just the morning) at the John Marshall Hotel. Get your tickets here. NON-BOARD MEMBERS are encouraged to go!
Learn more about issues that matter to YOU such as sensible gun safety legislation, election integrity, redistricting, mental health funding, passing the Equal Rights Amendment by hearing from numerous advocates from other organizations.
Carpooling will be available.
Breakfast and am session for $20 or all day with lunch for $40. Join in with fellow LWV members and others from around the commonwealth.


2) Williamsburg Area LWV member Christine Payne was asked to take a lead role in the LWV GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION GROUP and is asking our local League members who are interested in participating in this group to contact her at nursepayne2689@gmail.com so that she can arrange a conference call or meeting soon. Chris says, “The upcoming 2020 General Assembly session will focus heavily on Gun Violence Prevention and as League members, we can impact the legislative process.” Please join Christine to add your voice in reducing gun violence. Learn about the League’s gun violence position and how it aligns with proposed legislation in Virginia.