LWV-VA: Don’t play partisan politics with our right to vote

In a press release today, the League of Women Voters of Virginia takes exception to reports that Congressional redistricting may be delayed and that General Assembly redistricting may be reconsidered.

From LWV-VA president Lynn Gordon:

It would be nice if politicians would put voters first for a change, by giving them the chance to choose their representatives rather than letting the politicians pick their voters.

Um, yeah.

Not that anyone is listening.

The full release:

[Virginia Beach, VA]: The League of Women Voters of Virginia today addressed reports that congressional redistricting decisions may be delayed yet again and responded to the news that state legislative lines may be reassessed when new legislators go to Richmond in January:

“For months, we have heard straight from leaders on both sides of the aisle that redistricting process will be completed by December 31, as required by the Constitution,” stated LWV-VA president Lynn Gordon.  “Suddenly, we are hearing post-Election Day reports that lawmakers would rather wait and deal with it during the 2012 General Assembly session.

“Punting the redistricting football further down the field isn’t just a blatantly partisan tactic, it is one that could lead to massive voter confusion as we move into a presidential election year.”

The Virginia constitution requires that redistricting be done in the year following the decennial census.  Both the Virginia House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate drew the maps for their respective houses and each approved the other’s map.  These redistricting lines went into effect for the November 2011 election.

Now, according to a November 20, 2011 article in The Virginia Gazette, newly reinstated Senate Majority Leader, Senator Tommy Norment (R-3rd), told a reporter for the newspaper that he wants to revisit redistricting of the Virginia Senate in the 2012 General Assembly session.  Although there was tweaking to the lines in 1991 and 2001, according to the article, Norment “made it clear that what he has in mind goes beyond ‘tweaks’.”

Both Houses drew their own maps for U.S. Congressional redistricting.  Neither House was willing to approve the other’s map so a committee comprised of members of both parties from the House of Delegates and from the Senate was appointed to try to work out the differences.

“By stalling on congressional redistricting, and threatening to re-open the book on legislative redistricting, legislators are showing where their true interests lie: their own partisan gains,” added LWV-VA’s voter services chair Betsy Mayr.  “Neither is in the best interests of Virginia voters.”

After lines are drawn and a map for congressional redistricting is approved by both houses of the General Assembly, it must go to the governor for his signature.  At that point, Gov. McDonnell can either sign off on the plan or send it back to the legislature for additional work.  Once it is finally approved by the governor, because of federal Voting Rights Act requirements, it next goes to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval, a process that can last as long as sixty days.

Currently, candidates must file their intent to run for office no later than March 29 with primaries scheduled June 12.  If congressional redistricting is not completed in 2011 as required by the Virginia constitution it is likely that the filing dates and primaries will need to be rescheduled.  This could drastically shorten the election process, making it difficult for voters to be educated sufficiently on the issues and candidates prior to casting their vote in November 2012.

In other states where one party has attempted to revisit redistricting mid-way during a decennium, it has been seen as an escalation of partisan politics.  Undoubtedly, that will be the case here in Virginia.  This, too, is not in the voters’ best interests.  It continues the pattern of incumbent state senators and delegates acting out of concern for their political livelihood instead of their constituents.

Gordon concluded, “It would be nice if politicians would put voters first for a change, by giving them the chance to choose their representatives rather than letting the politicians pick their voters.”