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Deeds fights for redistricting plan

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Sen. Creigh Deeds, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor, held a press conference today to advocate for his plan to change the way Virginia draws its legislative districts. He criticized his fellow legislators in the House of Delegates who prevented his bill to create a non-partisan commission to draw districts from getting to the floor for a full vote. He also vowed to use his executive power to push non-partisan redistricting, if elected Governor. 

Sen. Deeds is hoping to eliminate the time honored political tradition of Gerrymandering (named after former Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who my tiny hometown is named after). Gerrymandering refers to politicians engineering the size and shape of districts to benefit their political parties. It is a common occurrence in almost every state and gives tremendous benefits to incumbent politicians.

Often, Republicans and Democrats work together to carve their districts to strengthen their power base. It creates odd looking funky districts that cross various municipalities and tend to separate Republican voters from Democratic voters. Across the country, good government groups have advocated for a non-partisan way to draw legislative districts to prevent this from happening.

More on the Deeds’ plan including the full release the jump..

Deeds’ bill (SB-926) passed the Senate unanimously but failed to be moved out of the privileges and elections committee, by a unanimous 22-0 vote. Both Republicans and Democrats passed on the chance to move the concept forward. In a press release Deeds said as Governor he will appoint an advisory commission, similar to the commission laid out in his redistricting reform bill. Using the veto and amendment powers granted to the Commonwealth’s chief executive, he would ensure passage of a redistricting plan advanced by the advisory commission.

Don’t expect this to be the end of this fight. Deeds is sure to bring it up again as a campaign issue, and the real debate over redistricting won’t happen until after the results of the 2010 census are revealed.

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Deeds Vows to Use Executive Authority as Governor to Ensure Bi-Partisan Redistricting

RICHMOND – Senator Creigh Deeds held a press conference in Richmond today to announce his intention to create a bi-partisan redistricting commission as Governor and to use the veto and amendment process to create competitive congressional and legislative districts. Earlier in the day, Republicans on the House Subcommittee on Elections defeated Deeds’ legislation to reform the partisan redistricting process despite receiving unanimous support in the Senate.

“Government ultimately belongs to the people, not elected officials,” said Senator Deeds. “Yet, our broken redistricting process allows for legislators to protect their own interests by drawing districts that protect incumbents and political majorities. When I’m Governor, Virginia voters will be the ones to choose their elected officials instead of allowing legislators to choose their voters.”

Deeds’ legislative proposal, SB 926, would have created a commission with an equal number of members appointed by leaders in both political parties. A seventh independent member would have been chosen by a majority vote of the six appointees. The commission would have been bound by criteria for drawing legislative districts that excludes the use of previous voting results, demographic data, or the addresses of incumbents.

As Governor, Deeds promised to appoint an advisory commission, similar to the commission laid out in his redistricting reform bill. Using the veto and amendment powers granted to the Commonwealth’s chief executive, he would ensure passage of a redistricting plan advanced by the advisory commission.

For the last seven years, Deeds has proposed the creation of a redistricting commission-chaired by a non-partisan member-that would remove partisanship and incumbent protection from the drawing of legislative and congressional districts. Last year’s proposal, SB 38, is identical to this year’s and passed 33-5. In 2007, Deeds’ Senate Joint Resolution 352 was the first time a bi-partisan redistricting proposal passed a chamber of the General Assembly. SJR 352 passed the Senate with the support of seven Republicans but was defeated on an unrecorded vote in a House of Delegates subcommittee. [See: SB 38, 2008; SJR 352, 2007]

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Written by Ryan Nobles

February 17, 2009 at 7:38 pm

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