A different kind of bailout

My latest op-ed appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Wednesday. It is quite interesting to me that there has been a slew of applications from Virginia localities to “bail out” of the preclearance rules of The Voting Rights Act this year. So far, five localities have reached agreements with the U.S. Justice Department and another four applications are pending.

The Norfolk City Council held a retreat Monday and Tuesday this week. On the agenda for Tuesday morning was a discussion of redistricting. Norfolk rushed through a redistricting plan earlier this year which basically maintains the status quo and does nothing to move our city towards the day where we, too, can apply for the bailout. As of this writing, we don’t know what was discussed about redistricting at the retreat: there was no live broadcast of it and being as it was held in Smithfield during a normal workday, it was difficult for citizens to attend. And we’ve not gotten a report in the newspaper.

I can only hope that the council considered a change in the process of electing council, something which could be in place in time for the 2014 council elections as I previously outlined. And that would put Norfolk on the path to joining other Virginia localities in proving to DOJ that our voting is free of discrimination.

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2 thoughts on “A different kind of bailout

  1. Redistricting is essentially the practice of gaining an advantage by the dominant party over the other. Personally, I don’t care if the DOJ has to approve redistricting.

    Has the DOJ ever failed to approve a redistricting in the past? How long does it take for them to approve? Has the DOJ shown a party preference in their approval / disapproval?

    Answers to those questions would be helpful.

    1. Redistricting does not have to be done that way. In fact, a number of states have taken it out of the hands of the electeds and put it, properly, in my opinion, in the hands of citizen groups. But that requires a legislature more forward-thinking than Virginia’s. And at the local level, redistricting has nothing to do with party.

      Yes, DOJ has sent redistricting plans back. How long it takes to approve depends on a number of factors, but if the plan falls within the guidelines developed over the years since 1965 by the court challenges, then they act within about 60 days.

      Since redistricting (generally) only takes place every 10 years, it’s pretty hard to say whether there is a preference for one party or another. But that doesn’t matter where parties don’t matter, such as at the local level in Virginia.

      You may not care if DOJ has to approve the redistricting but it matters a lot, particularly here in VA where discriminatory voting practices in the past have denied people ballot access.

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