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.

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.

What does the League do?

We thought about what we’ve been up to the past year and wanted to share it with you. The League pursues non-partisan political work that educates voters and supports our community.

Voter Service

  • The League’s Voter Registration team attended a June 14, 2018, Flag Day Naturalization Ceremony, registering new citizens as voters.
  • The President wrote a formal letter to Virginia Elections Commissioner Chris Piper in June 2018, regarding League’s concern about mapping errors resulting in numerous voters being incorrectly assigned to the wrong polling places in the 2017 election.
  • Our Voter Education team distributed over 500 copies of Facts for Voters, a flyer listing names and contact information for all elected officials in James City County, Williamsburg, and York County as well as top officials in the Commonwealth.  Also included is information on voter registration.
  • Active Voter Registration volunteers visited high schools, community colleges, and senior residences in the early fall in preparation for November 2018 election, repeating these efforts again in the spring to register additional students.

Civic Education

  • 270 subscribers, both League and community members, participated in our Great Decisions, our signature foreign affairs lecture series, with topics on: Cyber Conflicts and Geopolitics; Nuclear Negotiations; US-Mexico Partnership; Regional Disorder in the Middle East; Rise of Populism in Europe; US-China Trade; State of US Diplomacy; Refugees and Global Migration.  The 8 lectures were presented on Tuesday mornings in February and March 2019.
  • Gun Violence Prevention event on May 13, 2019, attended by 58 members and friends, featured an update on the status of various legislative initiatives to curb gun violence and increase gun safety.
Lori Haas of
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence
  • League presented public panel on January 24, 2019, discussing “Medicaid: Bridging the Cost of Health Care,” that included 4 healthcare professionals, economists, and community agency heads.
  • A dozen League members attended an April 26 Legislative Wrap-up Session hosted by the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance and featuring comments by Senator Monty Mason and Delegate Brenda Pogge.

Advocacy

  • On October 3, The Virginia Gazette, published the League President’s substantive commentary articulating the League’s mission and commitment to Voter Education.  The article called for civic and political involvement and urged informed voting in the midterm elections.  The timing of this article was prompted by the fact that the League was unable to host traditional pre-election Candidate Forums lacking the required participation of all candidates for each position. 
  • Launched Advocacy and Action groups on Election Integrity, Gun Safety Legislative Reform, and Civics Education in fall 2018.
  • President Schilling spoke in support of the Equal Rights Amendment at a January 9, 2019, meeting of the James City County Board of Supervisors.
  • At the May 2019 LWV-VA Convention, our League was awarded Third Place in the Advocacy Competition, measuring the number of individual advocacy initiatives based on membership size.  This is the second year we have placed third out of 13 Leagues across the Commonwealth.
  • League members joined students and community members for the March 23 March to End Gun Violence, hearing remarks by students, elected officials, and other community organizers for sensible gun reform.

Membership Events

  • Seven members (6 Board) attended the LWV-VA Council Meeting on June 16, 2018, in Henrico, with information shared on state positions and other priorities.
  • League President, Vice President, and Immediate Past President attended the July 2018 Biennial LWVUS Convention in Chicago, among 1,000 members from across the country.
  • W&M President Katherine Rowe spoke to 150 members and guests at our Fall Reception at Legacy Hall on October 10, 2018.
  • Twenty-three members attended the LWV-VA Fall Workshop Day at Colonial Williamsburg Conference Center on September 8, 2018, were who participated in training on advocacy strategies.
  • Fifteen members participated in the W&M Homecoming Parade on October 19, 2018, riding in a red convertible and marching, carrying banners celebrating W&M’s 100 years of admission of women and encouraging parade viewers to vote in November 6 Midterm Election in an effort to Empower Voters, Defend Democracy.
  • On November 10, 2018, 12 members attended opening day at Tenacity: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia at the Jamestown Settlement museum.
League Members at the Tenacity exhibit at Jamestown Settlement
  • Four members attended the November 19, 2018,all-day symposium on the Equal Rights Amendment, featuring law school faculty, elected officials and others.
  • Sixteen members attended the LWV-VA December 5, 2018, Pre-session Roundtable in Richmond to hear speakers, lobbyists and representatives of non-profits who highlighted upcoming proposed bills in 2019 General Assembly.
  • Seventy-five members attended the annual Holiday Reception at Schilling home on December 6, 2018.
  • On January 19, 2019, members participated in an ERA Women’s March on DOG Street, featuring elected officials and non-profit speakers, with League members marching and carrying LWV-WA and ERA banners.
  • From January 31, 2013 to January 31, 2019, our League doubled in membership, from 100 to 200.  Current membership is at 232 — and still growing.
  • Our League was the most consistent League with the largest number of members participating in the Women’s Legislative Roundtable. The six Wednesday morning sessions during General Assembly featured Delegates and non-profit lobbyists discussing bills being forwarded through committees and to the floors of the House and the Senate.  League members sitting in the Senate gallery were recognized at League Day, February 6, 2019.
  • Our April 4, 2019 New Member Orientation Reception at Schilling’s home drew 17 of our newest members to learn more about the League from Board members and to get acquainted with one another.
  • Eleven Voting Delegates and 3 Observers participated in the May 17-19, 2019, LWV-VA Convention in Norfolk with outstanding speakers and breakout sessions, bringing together Leaguers from across the Commonwealth.

General Assembly Results and Observations

Excerpted from a Voter Express article by Carol Noggle, Voter Protection Officer, State League of Virginia

Yes, it was a “wild” General Assembly session, as one newspaper headline stated. All sorts of unanticipated drama involving constitutional officers, but the legislative process continued with the LWV-VA and others in attendance. Observers could see during floor sessions some differences in the House and Senate culture, protocol and decorum, including somedebate obstruction. “Will the Gentleman yield?” “No, I will not yield.” Each side of House attempted to “hijack the rules.” Frequent Point of Personal Privilege (PPP) statements were very “pointed” from both sides on various bills including those regarding firearms in churches, ERA ratification, limiting the power of the Governor, changes to long-standing Rules, teaching Bible literature in the schools, and even on which June Tuesday to have the Primary elections. The House, with many subcommittees, affects the disposition of bills differently than the Senate. The House subcommittees have been described as “powerful gatekeepers” because a successful bill in the full Senate will fail in a House subcommittee that has only seven members.

What actually happened? Of 93 election related bills, 24 passed; among them:

• No-excuse absentee voting, though only for seven days.

• Absentee polling places will stay open properly for voters who are in line at 7pm.

• Preventing split precincts and establishing proper boundary lines advanced.

• Yet to be determined is whether or not voters will be considered “provisional” while waiting for verification of Social Security numbers.

• Improved ballot order to list candidates before the ballot questions will ensure that voters see the candidates first.

• Recount procedures for tied elections were clarified.

What didn’t pass?

• Requiring Voter Registration and information in Commonwealth high schools;

• Restoration of voting rights and voter registration information in regional jails; Extending the deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots;

• Allowing the Photo ID of a student enrolled at an out- of-state university;

• Extending the expiration time allowance for a DMV Photo ID;

• Most gun safety legislation including a “Red Flag” or Extreme Risk Protective Order bill;

• Ranked choice voting in local elections.

Environmental bills that passed included one on coal ash mitigation. Legislators prohibited any carbon dioxide cap-and-trade efforts by the Governor or a state agency. Regarding firearm safety, legislators rejected a “red flag” bill or Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) and a bill related to allowing firearms in churches. One successful opioid-related bill expanded who can possess and administer naloxone or other opioid antagonist, after completing training. Below are articles relating on the successful passage of a bipartisan commission on redistricting and inaction on the ERA. The redistricting bill, aimed at limiting gerrymandering, needs additional steps to be added as an amendment to the Constitution.

Join Us for LWV-VA Biennial Convention!

Anne Smith, LWV-WA and LWV-WA Board Member and Convention Chair

local league president and member of state league board

I am excited to tell you about the 39th LWV-VA Convention at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott on May 17-19. We think this will be both an informative and fun session! The location is close and easy to access so you can come for the full Convention or take advantage of the single-day registration.

The League of South Hampton Roads is the host League and has planned activities on Friday evening … a “Dine Around” to take advantage of Norfolk’s fine restaurants or a water ferry to those in Olde Towne Portsmouth. You can register early, beginning at 5:00 pm Friday, May 17, and join the fun. Saturday morning’s plenary session will be League business, primarily reports. Voting will take place during the Sunday morning plenary.

Diversity and Inclusion are major considerations for all levels of the League – National, State, and Local. Saturday’s lunch speaker on Diversity is Christy S. Coleman, a Williamsburg native with extraordinary accomplishments. Named by Time as “One of 31 People Changing the South,” she is the CEO of Richmond’s American Civil War Museum, which encompasses several historic sites. Previously, she was President/CEO of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit and Director of Historic Programs for Colonial Williamsburg.

Let Mary Schilling know of your interest in attending soon.
Registration ends April 25.

We have some truly informative breakout sessions planned for Saturday afternoon. Speakers include Jim Spore, 30+ year Virginia Beach City Manager talking about Infrastructure, Innovation, Transportation issues. Others include Skip Stiles, Executive Director of Wetlands Watch on “What about This Weather?”; Walt Latham, York County Director of Elections/General Registrar and President of the Voter Registrars Association of Virginia; and W&M Law Professor Rebecca Green on Redistricting Reform. Before our Sunday a.m. plenary session, Ron Carlee will speak on “Defending Democracy on All Levels.” A professor at Old Dominium University, Dr. Carlee, past Arlington, VA County Manager and Charlotte, NC City Manager, is a global presenter for the International City Managers Association (ICMA).

Although Convention adjourns at noon Sunday, the South Hampton Roads League has scheduled a “bonus session” for the afternoon focused on THE ENVIRONMENT. It includes knowledgeable speakers on a topic relevant for us all, including combating rising sea levels. LWV-WA can send eleven voting delegates, but absolutely every member is welcome to attend as observers and participate in every way except voting … it is an opportunity to learn, meet others from around the Commonwealth, and also … have fun! I hope many of you will choose to participate as observers.



Action and Advocacy Interest Groups Are Underway

Linda Rice, Action and Advocacy Coordinator

You can join one (or more!) of these groups! 

Become an interest group member to become more engaged with our League mission: Empowering Voters, Defending Democracy.

 

At its October 3 meeting, the LWV-WA board adopted a policy presented by Action and Advocacy Coordinator Linda Rice to guide interest groups. The policy describes what advocacy efforts members may undertake in support of positions that the League has reached through research, dialogue and consensus. The policy, including guidelines for interest groups, can be accessed here.

Several local League interest groups have formed to focus on League priorities. Each group will meet regularly to conduct research in depth, track relevant legislation introduced in the General Assembly (GA), and advocate, either in support or opposition, with our legislators during the GA session. Interest groups may organize panel discussions on topics of general interest that the group identifies. Fall reception attendees had an opportunity to join individual groups; some committees are complete, others actively seek additional members.

Nine members have joined the Election Integrity Committee; no more are needed. I chaired the recent state study on Behavioral Health that resulted in an expanded state position; our knowledgeable committee will continue its advocacy work.

The Education interest group, Loretta Hannum, Susan Nelson, Laura Tripp, and Sudie Watkins, will select a chair at their first meeting; additional members are welcome.

Christine Payne is the point of contact for advocacy on Gun Safety legislation.

Jo Solomon is our League liaison to the LWV-VA Redistricting Committee. The state League has been an active partner with OneVirginia2021 since its inception in 2013.

The League supports passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and your involvement in VAratifyERA.org would be welcome.

Contact Linda Rice with questions.