The statewide group advocates with the state’s legislature for the interests of the Commonwealth’s 95 counties, according to a press release from McKay.
“I’m honored to serve as the next President of the Virginia Association of Counties. Throughout my many years with VACo, I have always considered us to be a large family,” said McKay in a speech delivered to members.
Chairman McKay had led efforts with VACo over the last several years to drastically increase state education funding, transportation funding and ensure the perspective of counties is heard statewide, according to the press release.
“I treasure the many relationships I have built with my colleagues throughout Virginia. VACo is a great way to bring us all together to advance our communities,” said McKay.
This upcoming year, Chairman McKay wants to lead VACo with the same level of equity as that of Fairfax County.
“As a kid riding my bike with friends, I didn’t realize what this meant, but I saw firsthand that where you come from was an important factor for your future success and livelihood. When I got older, I understood that this was wrong,” McKay said.
“This was a driving force behind my decision to begin a career in local government and an inspiration behind the One Fairfax equity policy that I introduced in 2017. This policy has become central to all decision making in Fairfax County by requiring us to look at all policies.”
McKay started his tenure yesterday.
Photo via Jeff McKay/Facebook
Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman announced on Tuesday his bid for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.
Perryman has been a practicing attorney for 10 years, working on policies relating to emerging technologies. He has been an active member of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee Steering Committee since 2018. He also served as counsel on the House Oversight Committee while working on the staff of late Congressman Elijah Cummings.
“I would be someone who every day would try to make sure I’m incorporating the voices of those that feel marginalized or unheard,” Perryman said. “That would be my primary goal of doing this.”
He joins a group of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for lieutenant governor that includes Del. Elizabeth R. Guzmán (Prince William), Del. Hala Ayala (Prince William), former Democratic Party chairman Paul Goldman and Arlington County businessman Xavier Warren.
Republican candidates include former delegate Timothy D. Hugo (Fairfax), Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (Virginia Beach), Fairfax County business consultant Puneet Ahluwalia and Lance Allen, a national security company executive from Fauquier County.
Each candidate is vying for the role that will be vacated by Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who is running for governor.
Perryman is focusing his campaign on the values learned and utilized through his advocacy work and public service, as well as his work as the first Director of Social Impact and Diversity and Inclusion Policy at the Internet Association.
“I would say the ‘Es:’ education, equity, economics and environment,” Perryman said. “That’s really the issues I view as the most urgent problems we’re facing and what we’re going to focus on as a campaign to get us out of this mess in the years to come.”
Perryman added that his decision to run for lieutenant governor comes amidst the “inequities that we already had” that were brought to the forefront by the COVID-19 pandemic.
His campaign will focus on several key points that include COVID-19 containment and relief, rejuvenating efforts to boost the workforce, legalizing cannabis and investing in infrastructure projects.
As a part of Perryman’s “Es” focus, he aims for a specific investment in broadband infrastructure to provide internet across the state. He sees this as an education issue as well as an economic one.
“If you don’t have internet access, that means you can’t get telehealth, that means you can’t get on the school if it’s virtual, and that means you can’t work remotely,” he said.
“There are some Band-Aid measures that can help us in the interim until we can get that up, but that’s going to be critical for us in the years to come. That’s also a way to get people back to work.”
If elected, he aims to champion legalizing cannabis to create a regulated market that can be used to generate tax revenue to fund projects such as universal pre-K and create jobs. He also recognizes that a discussion of legalizing cannabis comes with a need to talk about releasing people who have been arrested on cannabis-related charges.
Perryman acknowledged that the lieutenant governor role “isn’t inherently powerful,” but said that he is aiming to take his goals and work with the governor, whether in commissions or committees, and establish a set of priorities, policies and values that he believes Virginia needs to adopt.
“I want to be out there speaking on these issues, elevating these issues,” Perryman said. “But also, pushing back on people who stop the progress from happening, whether they’re my colleagues in the state Senate, whether they’re Democrat or Republican, we need to have people that are being honest brokers with the public and saying, ‘These are the barriers to progress, these are who we need to defeat, and we need to elect new people.'”
To accomplish his goals, Perryman said he will utilize the knowledge and experience he has gained during his community advocacy. He points to his role as a chief advocate behind renaming Robert E. Lee High School to John Lewis High School, and changes he helped push for communication between schools and police, which helped lead to a reduction of arrests in school.
He also vows a vigilant push amongst policymakers to fight for these issues.
“I think the issues are far too important. I’m not looking at this as a stepping stone for anything else. I’m looking at this as the role I want to clearly articulate a set of values and fight for those values in Richmond.”
If elected, Perryman, 34, will be the youngest candidate elected to the position in 50 years. He is no stranger to this situation, as he was the youngest elected president of the Fairfax County NAACP in the chapter’s 102-year history.
He also sees his experience working with the Steering Committee and Counsel for the Oversight Committee as advantages to speak on issues of race and criminal justice. Perryman views his age, coupled with his experience, as an opportunity to directly relate to the issues that he sees being left to the younger generations, specifically environmental and student loan debt issues.
“I’m coming from a place where as a community advocate, I’m able to know what’s impacting people on the ground,” Perryman said.
“I think that, more so than anything, is why they should vote for me. I’m coming from both having the policy experience as well as dealing with folks one-on-one and being able to elevate their issues and speak to them.”
Perryman also pushes his experience working with members of the community as a key point that he could use as lieutenant governor. He points to the work he has been able to accomplish as the president of the Fairfax County NAACP, including providing forgivable loans to about 30 small minority-owned businesses during the pandemic with the help of the Virginia 30 Day Fund.
A graduate of Vanderbilt law school, Perryman was the first person in his family to attend college – which he paid for himself. He touts his ability and desire to reach different locales and incorporate community members from across the state in forming opinions on policy.
“I believe you need to have someone in these positions that lived these experiences, they weren’t handed things, they understand what it’s like to be a working class person trying to make it and navigate through a system without help,” Perryman said.
“I understand more so than I think most people do. I want people to know that I’ve lived that experienced, and not just someone who’s talking about it.”
Photo courtesy Sean Perryman
Job seekers have the chance to apply for a new seasonal gig. The Fairfax County Office of Elections recently announced it’s hiring more than 200 workers for the November election.
The positions came about because the elections office is expecting a significant rise in absentee voting this year, Brian Worthy, a Fairfax County spokesperson, told Reston Now.
Applicants can apply to be considered for three various positions, according to the job listings.
About 200 people are needed to process mailed absentee ballots, starting around Sept. 28 and likely working until a few days after the election. Meanwhile, about 40 people will get hired to assist in–person absentee voters at satellite locations from Oct. 14-Oct. 31. A limited number of people are needed for the administration tasks like data input, which the job description did not include a timeframe for.
“Skills we are looking for are people who have attention to detail and basic computer skills,” Worthy said, adding that applicants must also be registered voters in Virginia. Other requirements and a detailed description of each position can be found online.
“For all positions, you are hired as a seasonal employee, paid hourly, and must go through a background check including fingerprinting. The work is seasonal with no benefits and is dependent on the election schedule,” the listing said, adding that most employees will be paid around $14 an hour. The opportunities are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis.
“We are still in the hiring process so we don’t have a count of how many positions have been filled yet,” Worthy said.
Anyone interested in applying can fill out an online Survey Monkey form. Applicants shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t hear back right away, Worthy said.
“The hiring process does take some time, so people might not hear back immediately,” according to Worthy, who added that he encourages people to apply early so they will have plenty of time to complete the onboarding process.
According to Fairfax County’s website, there are also openings for local election officers. The county said that it’s received roughly 10 times the normal number of applications for the election officer roles.
Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman wasn’t planning to explore the possibility of running for public office earlier this year.
Pressing issues from the ongoing pandemic and Black Lives Matter Movement after police killed George Floyd inspired Perryman to explore jumping into Virginia’s lieutenant governor race.
“It was really born out of the crisis we are seeing,” Perryman said. “This was not something that was in the cards for me when I first started this year.”
Already familiar with how to elect local Democrats from his work for Virginia’s Democratic Party, Perryman said that the lieutenant governor position would give him the most leverage to advocate change.
In addition to his role as Fairfax County NAACP’s president, Perryman works for the Internet Association. Previously, he served as counsel for the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He practiced civil litigation in Texas and D.C. after attending Vanderbilt University.
Current Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, a Democrat, is eyeing a run for governor in 2021. The election for Fairfax’s seat will be held next November.
So far, Del. Hala Ayala (D-51st) and Paul Goldman, the former chair of Virginia’s Democratic Party, and have announced they will vie for Fairfax’s seat. In addition to Perryman, Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31st) and Norfolk Councilmember Andria McClellan are considering running for the position.
Currently, Perryman said he is working with his team to figure out how they can best “serve Virginians” and that they haven’t set a date to officially announce his candidacy. Perryman shared with Reston Now what some of his top issues are.
Perryman said that extending the eviction moratorium is one of his main priorities, noting that he’s already been advocating for the extension in Virginia with the NAACP since the pandemic started.
“The federal government did not provide enough assistance to get people through this crisis and now I think, rather cruelly, allowing people to be evicted when all they did was adhere to what the government told them to do,” Perryman told Reston Now.
Though the Virginia Supreme Court extended the eviction moratorium through early September, Perryman said this isn’t enough time for people to recover from the pandemic’s economic fallout.
“It really depends on how long it takes the federal government to get financial assistance to those people in need,” he said.
Allocation of the CARES Act funding, which allows states to extend unemployment benefits to independent contractors, is yet another area that needs work, according to Perryman. “Here in Virginia, what we can do better is the unemployment insurance that is available.”
People had to wait weeks for Virginia to sort out the delays with unemployment payments. Virginia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 2.7 percent in January before skyrocketing in the spring due to the pandemic.
Perryman said that unemployment benefits should be more widely accessible for all kinds of workers as long as they can prove their income was interrupted by the pandemic.
Perryman attributed Virginia’s unemployment office being short-staffed — “It wasn’t up to par for what was coming” — as a reason for the delays and suggested that there is an opportunity to revamp the department and hire new people.
Right now, Perryman is focused on grassroots fundraising. He managed to raise over $80,000, all of which came from individuals — not corporations or political action committees — in the first 10 days of the campaign, Perryman tweeted.
“I’m relying on small-dollar donations from the community,” he said.
His next steps include meeting with community activists and elected officials. No matter what happens in the next few months, Perryman said it’s crucial that voters pay attention to state elections.
While voter fatigue is possible with the tensions around the upcoming elections this fall, Perryman said people need to think about the changes they want to see both locally and nationally.
“People understand we are in unprecedented times,” Perryman said. “None of us thought we’d be sanitizing our groceries, wearing masks and talking only via Zoom. We can’t give up or get tired. We have to essentially rebuild the society we are living in.”
THREAD: I’m excited to share that I’m exploring a run for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. Over the next few months, I’m looking forward to meeting with people across the Commonwealth to hear about the issues that are important to them.
— Sean Perryman (@SeanPerryman3) July 27, 2020
Photo courtesy Sean Perryman
(Updated 11:10 a.m.) Be careful if you get a mailer from the Center for Voter Information, Fairfax County election officials say.
Fairfax County and City of Fairfax residents have received the mailers from the Center for Voter Information, which have incorrect return addresses.
“This mailing is causing great confusion and concern among voters who have been contacting our office,” said Fairfax County General Registrar Gary Scott. “While the mailing may appear to be from an official government agency, the Fairfax County Office of Elections did not send it.”
The Center for Voter Information, a voter registration group, says its working on returning the incorrect mailers to the right addresses. Roughly half-a-million mailers included incorrect information.
“Mistakes in our programming are very rare, but we take them seriously, and our methods overall are extraordinarily effective,” the center wrote in a statement yesterday.
“We know voters are on high alert as the November election approaches, and we regret adding to any confusion,” the center added.
Jonathan Shapiro, the president of Smith-Edwards-Dunlap Company, apologized in a statement, saying that the printing vendor is responsible for the “major error.”
“This mistake occurred because we incorrectly aligned a spreadsheet that matched the voter with their local election office,” Shapiro said. CVI did not review the spreadsheet and the printing vendor has taken steps to make sure mistakes are caught in the future, Shapiro added.
“This is not the level of work that SED and our partner, Quad Graphics, pride ourselves on. We have printed and mailed over 100 million vote-by-mail applications and voter registration applications without error and we are committed to the highest standards of quality control and excellence,” Shapiro said. “In this mailing we fell far short of that goal. We apologize to CVI, to the staff at the affected local boards of election, and to the voters.”
County officials are warning voters about the “inaccurate and potentially misleading mailing” that asks people to return them to the City of Fairfax.
More from the county:
This group is mass mailing pre-filled, absentee ballot applications to county voters without their request — and the mailer includes return envelopes to send the application to the City of Fairfax, not Fairfax County.
The mailing is also confusing voters who have previously submitted absentee ballot applications themselves, Scott added. These voters are worried that their applications were not received, leading them to think they need to apply again.
Fairfax County is working with the City of Fairfax to ensure any applications received from the center’s inaccurate mailing will be processed by the county.
“The Virginia Department of Elections has no affiliation with this group nor coordinates with any third-party groups on campaign efforts,” according to the Virginia Department of Elections. The department noted that any applications that get sent to the wrong locality’s office will be sent to the correct office.
This is not the first time that mailers from the Center for Voter Information, which describes itself as a non-partisan organization that helps people vote, have confused Virginians.
The News Leader, a newspaper in Staunton, explained last year how organizations can obtain mailing addresses after the Center for Voter Information confused residents with a mailer about voter registration.
County election officials said that election information from the county will include a county seal on the envelope, along with the “Official Election Mail Authorized by the U. S. Postal Service” logo.
Fairfax County voters who want to return the Center for Voter Information applications should mail it to the Fairfax County Office of Elections (12000 Government Center Parkway Suite 323, Fairfax, VA 22035), Brian Worthy, a county spokesperson, said.
People who want to absentee vote by mail can apply online, which will allow them to track the status of their application, or vote in-person at 15 locations. Registered voters can expect their ballots to arrive after Sept. 18.
Photo by Element5 Digital/Unsplash, photo via mailer via Fairfax County
Catherine Douglas Moran and Fatimah Waseem worked on this story
Yesterday, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved creating 14 voter satellite offices.
The voter satellite offices will serve absentee in-person voters.
“The advent of no-excuse absentee voting [in Virginia] for the November 2020 Presidential Election is expected to significantly increase the number of voters choosing to cast absentee ballots in person,” according to county staff.
County staff noted that the expected voter turnout for the upcoming presidential election is why they suggest an increased number of voter satellite offices, adding that the county had nine locations for the 2016 presidential election.
The Reston-area voter satellite offices will include:
- Great Falls Library (9830 Georgetown Pike)
- Herndon Fortnightly Library (768 Center Street)
- North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive)
The voter satellite offices will be ready for the General Election on Nov. 3 and will be open from Oct. 14-31, according to county documents.
The locations would be open from 1-7 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.
Stay-at-Home Chalk Art Challenge Underway — Public Art Reston is encouraging residents to make chalk drawings on safe, paved spaces. This week’s theme is fantasy. [Public Art Reston]
Local Company Tops ‘Fantastic 50’ List — The Herndon-based B3 Group was named the fastest-growing company in the Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 “Fantastic 50” list. The company saw revenue growth of 3,231 percent from 2015 through 2018. [Virginia Chamber]
Leidos Acquires L3Harris Businesses — Reston-based defense contractor Leidos Holdings Inc. announced Tuesday it has officially completed the acquisition of Massachusetts- and England-based L3Harris’ Security Detection and Automation businesses for approximately $1 billion in cash. [Virginia Business Monthly]
Urgent Need for Election Volunteers — The Virginia Department of Elections is currently looking for election volunteers for the June 23 primaries. The election form is available online. [Fairfax County Government]
(Updated 2/28/2020) Students at Fairfax County’s public schools will get to stay home on March 3 for Super Tuesday.
Large crowds are expected to turn out for the primary election in Virginia. Brian Worthy, a spokesperson for the county, said that 167 polling places will be in the schools for voters casting their ballots for the Democratic presidential nomination.
While students will have the day off, staff will still need to report to the schools, Lucy Caldwell, an FCPS spokesperson, said.
On Wednesday (Feb. 26), Reston residents can attend a candidates’ forum with candidates running in the upcoming Reston Association Board of Directors election.
The public is invited to the debate-style forum at the RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) beginning at 6:30 p.m. All seven candidates will available for a meet and greet as well, according to the event listing.
In this election, candidates will be competing for four open seats and the RA encourages all members and residents to vote. A minimum of 10 percent voter turnout is needed to make the results official.
The election will take place from March 2 until April 3, according to the RA, which added results will be available online later in April.
Those who cannot attend the forum in person, can watch it online and are even able to submit questions through email until the end of today (Feb. 24).
Participating candidates are below:
At-Large (3-year term):
- Kerri Bouie
- Robert T. Petrine
At-Large (1-year term):
- Paul Berry
- Sarah Selvaraj-Dsouza
Hunters Woods/Dogwood (3-year):
- Caren Anton
Apartment Owner (3-year):
- Mike Collins
- Jennifer Sunshine Jushchuk
Beginning later today, Reston Now will begin publishing candidate statements written by those running.
Photo via RA/Facebook
(Updated 12/28/19) Come Jan. 1, the Fairfax County School Board will have a lot of new faces.
The 12-member board will see eight newcomers in 2020.
Half of the school board’s incumbents decided not to seek reelection, including: Ilryong Moon, Ryan McElveen, Jane Strauss, Pat Hynes, Sandy Evans and Dalia Palchik. The two Republican incumbents — Elizabeth Schultz and Thomas Wilson — lost their reelection bids.
At-Large Member Karen Keys-Gamarra won reelection, along with:
- Braddock District Representative Megan McLaughlin
- Lee District Representative Tamara Derenak Kaufax
- Mount Vernon District Representative Karen Corbett Sanders
Here is information on the new incoming members, who took their oaths of office on Thursday (Dec. 12) at Jackson Middle School.
At-Large Members Abrar Omeish and Rachna Sizemore Heizer
Omeish and Heizer, along with incumbent Karen Keys-Gamarra, beat three opponents for the At-Large seats.
Heizer has worked as a college professor, disability justice advocate and lawyer, according to her campaign website. Omeish is the co-founder of Give, a youth-led nonprofit and led the county-wide campaign for an anti-bullying campaign, according to her campaign website.
Hunter Mill District: Melanie Meren
Meren, a former U.S. Department of Education employee, beat her opponent, Laura Ramirez Drain. Meren is a parent and small business owner who has lived in Fairfax County for more than 15 years, according to Reston Now.
Dranesville District: Elaine Tholen
Tholen beat three opponents. A resident of Fairfax County for 25 years, Tholen most recently served as the director and treasurer for the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, according to her campaign website.
Mason District: Ricardy Anderson
Anderson beat opponent Tom Pafford. She has been a community volunteer, a veteran of the National Guard Army Reserve and lived in Annandale for more than 10 years, according to her campaign website.
Providence District: Karl Frisch
Frisch beat opponent Andrea Bayer in the election. Frisch has served as the executive director of consumer watchdog Allied Progress, was a small business owner and worked as a staffer for the Committee on Rules in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to his campaign website.
Springfield District: Laura Jane Cohen
Cohen beat two opponents, including Republican incumbent Elizabeth Schultz. Cohen has been a resident in the county for nearly 20 years and is a former preschool teacher, according to her campaign website.
Sully District: Stella Pekarsky
Pekarsky beat Republican incumbent Tom Wilson. She was previously an FCPS ESOL teacher, small business co-owner and trustee on the Fairfax County Board.
Come 2020, the school board seats will all be filled by Democrats.
“Corbett Sanders will remain chair of the School Board and Derenak Kaufax will remain as vice-chair,” according to FCPS. “School Board officers are elected at the first meeting in July of each year.”
The board also includes a non-voting student representative who is selected by the Student Advisory Council.
The Reston Association is seeking several candidates for seats on its Board of Directors for the upcoming election in March.
There are currently four open positions on the board for 2020 and include two at-large positions, an apartment owners’ seat and the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District seat.
One of the at-large positions is for a one-year term while the other is for a three-year term.
Candidates must be a Reston Association member to qualify for a position and announce their candidacy by Jan. 24. People can email RA if they have questions.
There will be a meeting on Jan. 9 at 7 p.m. in the Reston Association Headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive) for anyone interested in candidacy.
Photo via YouTube/Reston Association
Proposed Changes to Land Use Regulations Unveiled Today — Fairfa County officials will showcase proposed revisions to zoning land use regulations as part os its zoning modernization project — zMOD — today (Tuesday) at the Fairfax County Government Center at 7 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]
INOVA Blood Drive is Today — The bloodmobile will be stationed next to the pavilion from 1-6 p.m. today. Appointments to donate blood can be scheduled online or by calling 1-866-256-6372. [Reston Town Center]
Absentee Voting in Full Swing — Absentee voting, which kickstarted last Thursday, across 10 locations in Fairfax County is underway. Locations will be open Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]
Absentee voting in Fairfax County begins tomorrow (Sept. 20) for the Nov. 5 elections.
Eligible community members can register to vote for the upcoming elections online or at the Office of Elections (12000 Government Center Parkway) in conference rooms two and three. Voters may also receive their ballots through the mail.
Absentee voters in Reston may also submit their registration or ballots to the North County Governmental Center (1801 Cameron Glen Drive) on Oct. 17- Nov. 2 from 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturdays.
All absentee voters will need a valid driver’s license or state-issued identification card and their social security number to register.
For those unfamiliar with the process of absentee voting, Fairfax County published a variety of resources to explain the procedure and help answer questions.
Ballots will be translated into English, Spanish, Korean and Vietnamese.
The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is seven days before the election, or Oct. 29 by 5 p.m., according to Fairfax County. All absentee ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Nov. 5 in order to be counted.
For the last year, local residents have held up large, lighted letters against the sky in front of the White House as part of the Kremlin Annex protests — a dramatic visual protest that has received national notoriety.
Protests began on July 16 last year when President Donald Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Protestors took issue with Trump’s acceptance of Putin’s assertions that he did not interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
Activists from Herndon-Reston Indivisible organized and sent teams of volunteers carrying lighted letters with key messages to the White House. For the first four months of the initiative, protestors held up lighted letters every night. In mid-November, the initiative switched to three days per week. Following its one-year anniversary, letters light up the sky on Saturdays from 7:30-9 p.m.
Herndon-Reston Indivisible is a grassroots advocacy organization that aims to mobilize a progressive network to resist the Trump agenda, according to its website.
Organizers behind the visual protest said they were surprised by the attention received by their advocacy. The visual appeal of their protest has earned a nod by the Grey Lady, the Washington Post, USA TODAY and Newsweek.
“In effect, they become our voice — and a loud voice at that,” said Nan Dearborn, a co-lead of the lighted letters initiative. “You just can’t miss the message when you have activists holding ‘treason’ or ‘corrupt’ or ‘racist’ in giant lighted letters right in front of the White House.”
The first night, volunteers held up letters spelling “liar” — a visual display that HRI co-founder Heidi Zollo said was “an instant hit.”
Since then, volunteers have made roughly 45 letters to spell out anything at short notice. The leaders of the initiative — Ginny Reed and Dearborn — scan the news and consider the number of volunteers to determine what word to hold up. On a typical night, the word of the night is unveiled when volunteers arrive at the White House.
One of the most memorable nights was when activists gathered for the “Close the Camps” protest. An energized crowd of protestors held up signs in the pouring rain in early July. The lighted letters also travel to other protests, including monthly vigils at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association.
Organizers expect to hold up the lighted letters every Saturday night so long as the Kremlin Annex protests continue.
Photo via Herndon-Reston Indivisible
The threats to our democratic-republican form of government are more numerous than weeks of this column could enumerate. While I will not mention the more obvious ones brought on by the current administration in Washington, I do want to focus on two that have come about in the recent past — one just last week. They impact all levels of government and come about not from the executive branch of government or the dysfunctional Congress but rather from the judicial branch and its highest level, the Supreme Court! While I have always viewed the Supreme Court as a safety backstop that would save our republic from harm by the Congress or the president, in recent years it is the Court that has become one of the real threats to democratic governance.
One of the biggest inhibitors of advancement on progressive issues in Virginia has been the unrestrained ability of the members of the party in power at the time of the decennial census to choose the voters they want to represent for the next decade by gerrymandering district boundaries. For some of us there has been a struggle to put in place a non-partisan method of drawing district lines. With the great organization OneVirginia2021’s efforts there has been real progress towards meeting that goal. A Constitutional amendment passed the last session of the General Assembly that would establish what is described as a non-partisan and transparent process for redistricting. It must pass the 2020 session without change in order to be sent to the voters in a referendum before becoming part of the state constitution.
In the meantime lawsuits were successful in federal courts to have the Virginia Congressional and House of Delegates districts redrawn to eliminate discrimination based on race. The Supreme Court refused to review the new House of Delegates districts drawn by a lower federal court on a technicality that the current members bringing the suit did not have standing.
Of great concern, however, is the Supreme Court decision last week saying in effect that federal courts do not have the power to redraw politically gerrymandered district lines. The outcome could be more devastating to a republican form of government as the dominant party would be left free to establish itself in power without a way to challenge it.
The Supreme Court has historically sidestepped cases in the past that would have brought them into resolving partisan redistricting. I am fearful that the Court’s decision will result in rampant gerrymandering of legislative districts creating unparalleled control of legislatures. This unfortunate decision by the Supreme Court may have been exceeded in its partisan implications only by Citizens United that many people feel may have been the Court’s greatest mistake by bringing uncontrolled corporate influence into elections.
As usual the checks, although extremely limited to these kinds of bad decisions, continue to be voting the very best people into elective office.