ICYMI: Give Virginia’s voters real choices

decidewesmallMy latest op-ed, title above, appeared in The Virginian-Pilot Thursday. A new group has formed that is looking ahead to 2021 redistricting.

I consider partisan redistricting as one of the primary factors in the polarization of the electorate. When one party has virtually no chance of losing a given seat, there is no reason for that representative to pay any attention to those from the opposite party. And there’s unlikely to be a challenger, either.

In nearly every column that I write, I urge voters to become activist citizens. I urge them to learn about candidates and issues, and to participate in our democracy. Every once in a while, I get an email from somebody that reminds me that their ballot often has no choices on it. Not that I need a reminder. The last couple of House of Delegates elections my ballot has also contained just one name.  After the last redistricting, I was moved from one house district to another. My old district had a contested race every cycle. My new one hasn’t had one yet.

Just because my new representative and I don’t agree on much doesn’t mean that he should be able to ignore me. But what’s the downside for him if he does? There isn’t any – except he is deprived of hearing from constituents who disagree with him and us from hearing his reasons for his positions. Until I ran into him at a meeting and asked, I had never received any contact from my representative’s office.

I don’t think that’s what the founders intended.

By contrast, my Congressional district is one of the few swing districts in the country. My rep and I don’t agree on much, either, but we have an open line of communication. And I don’t think I’m special – my rep reaches out to all of his constituents fairly regularly, as he should. And we do agree on one thing: partisan redistricting needs to go.

I’m glad someone has taken this on – again. Hopefully, this new group will succeed, not just in getting some ink on their proposals but in raising the consciousness of the people about this important issue. Last time, that didn’t materialize; in fact, I’ll never forget one of Norfolk’s council members saying at a public meeting that she didn’t realize how big of a deal redistricting is. It was embarrassing to have an elected representative understand so little about a process that benefits her.

We deserve better. But it’s not going to happen unless we demand it.

My column appears in The Virginian-Pilot every week, usually on Thursdays. You can see the columns as they are published here, or navigate to them from the PilotOnline.com homepage by clicking on Opinion and then choosing my name at the bottom of the dropdown list. You can also see the columns by liking my Facebook page. Although my column appears weekly, I am not and have never been an employee of The Virginian-Pilot nor am I paid for my contributions to the paper.


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