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Del. Ken Plum: De-Gerrymandering Continued

by Del. Ken Plum September 6, 2018 at 12:00 pm 16 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoThis is an opinion column by Del. Ken Plum (D), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

Sorry, but this is yet another column on the continuing effort to de-gerrymander House of Delegates districts in Virginia as directed by the federal courts. In this instance, it was the Republican Party who in the majority after the 2010 census drew district lines that were designed to keep them in the majority until the next census in 2020 when lines must be drawn again. They ran into trouble when to dilute the votes of African Americans who traditionally vote Democratic they packed them into eleven districts in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions. A panel of federal judges found the practice violated the constitutional rights of the individuals involved and ordered the districts to be redrawn. The Governor called the General Assembly into special session last week to carry out the court’s directive. The legislature went home without success after one day of effort.

Why is the Republican majority failing to do as the court directed? The reason is quite simple. If it took an unconstitutional drawing of district lines to maintain their majority in the House of Delegates, an undoing of those lines would likely take away their majority. Is the court favoring Democrats in what they are doing? No, the court is protecting the constitutional rights of individuals. The court does not take into account partisan outcomes. You simply cannot deny equal representation in the legislature of a class of people without running afoul of their constitutional protections.

When the court found Virginia’s Congressional districts to be unconstitutional several years ago, the remedy of that situation was new districts that resulted in the election of an additional African American congressman from the state that up to that point had only one. Both happen also to be Democrats.

The court has denied an appeal from the Republicans of their directive to resolve the unconstitutional districts. If the General Assembly fails to carry out the court’s mandate, the court will redraw the districts themselves. Presumably there would be special elections held right away in the new districts.

In the meantime, House Democrats have proposed a redrawing of the legislative lines to make the districts constitutional which unsurprisingly could result in the election of as many as five new Democrats. The authors of the new maps insist that they did what needed to be done to follow the court’s directive and not what would give them more seats. The day of the special session was spent with the Republicans picking apart the proposed map in an attempt to show that it was too partisan.

Republicans called the map hypocritical, and one of my Democratic colleagues, Delegate Steve Heretick, called it a “self-serving political power grab.” I draw two conclusions from the last several months: The court needs to take immediate remedial action to correct the constitutional problems with the current districts, and the General Assembly at its next legislative session must pass a constitutional amendment establishing a truly independent commission to do redistricting. The amendment would need to pass a second session of the General Assembly and a referendum of the people. Legislative bodies simply cannot rise above their own self-interests to do the job fairly.

File photo

  • Mike M

    I’m certain if the Dems had a majority they would seek very balanced solution – whatever that is. LOL! No, they would’t. They would try to game the system within the rules just like the other party did. What entertains me in Ken’s crocodilian argument is that the Dems somehow own the Af-American vote. Odd. [email protected], actually.

    • Nice Try

      He made no such claim re: the AA vote. He merely referenced a commonly understood statistic. Once again, your powers of interpretation rate at about a 1.2 on a scale of 1-10.

      • Mike M

        “Merely referenced?” Why? He presumes that trend will stay steady. In fact, it is eroding as AAs start to realize their ineterests are the same as everbody else’s. This will erode the power of the left.

  • ken BUM

    Key performance indicators for Kenny p’s job- 1 ranting opinion piece per week.

    Keep up the good work… nottttttttt

    • Mike M

      And sometimes on the same topic as last week!

      • KennyP

        Looks like a machine gun to me!

        • Mike M

          You’re right. He has four or five topics to which he always returns. It’s almost a pattern. He has nothing else.

  • JoeInReston

    Lets suppose for the sake of discussion that one side is willing to shamelessly gerrymander and the other side has a bit more shame. They will gerrymander, but they won’t gerrymander to the shameless degree of the other side. The result will be that the side that shamelessly gerrymanders will acquire more power. There is huge disadvantage to ‘doing the right thing’ if the right thing isn’t explicitly defined in the rule set.

    How will a bipartisan commission solve the problem? If two sets of parties can’t come to an agreement, I don’t see how establishing a commission with a smaller set of decision makers will solve the problem? How would the commissioners be appointed? If the makeup of the state contains 60% from one party, 40% the other, should the bipartisan commission be 50/50 or 60/40? If its 60/40, whats to prevent the 60 side from imposing a heavily gerrymandered solution?

    Suppose that you some how setup a fair and independent commission, and suppose though incompetency (ie not bad motives), they come up with a poor solution against the current party in power. Do you think that the party in power is going to sit back let their decisions come to pass when there is so much at stake?

    This is a problem with no good solution at the state level.

    • Mike M

      Well stated. One thing I know for sure is that Ken Plum is not a part of the solution. But it is sad how race is gamed so well by the Dems.

    • Wanting Fairness

      Fine. Let the courts decide it then.

      • JoeInReston

        And how does that solve the problem?

        • Wanting Fairness

          The courts are supposed to be impartial to political bias. While that obviously will never be 100% true, they certainly have less skin in the game than elected/appointed party officials.

          Maybe the correct answer is to have a computer draw district lines based solely on population numbers and geography, which is really how they ought to be drawn up.

          • JoeInReston

            Yea, I like the computer/algorithm based solution that factors in communities via popular numbers, geography, and other similar metrics. Probably requires an amendment, not going to happen.

  • Kanye

    Ken, Just because you’re black, dosen’t mean you have to vote democrat.

    -Kanye West

  • 30yearsinreston

    Hypocritical Ken who has gained more from a gerrymander than most people realize preaching to the choir

  • Grey mush

    Right now the districts are finely tuned to give an even split, give or take a dozen votes or so. By doing so we accomplish two things

    1. The Republican district are the bad guys, less public handouts

    2. The Democratic districts are the good guys, plenty of infrastructure spending and entitlement programs

    Thanks Ken for keeping things simple.

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