Democratic delegates Tuesday called on Republican House Speaker William Howell to revive legislation that supporters say would help take politics out of redistricting.
By Tyler Hammel for Capital News Service
The Democrats tried to put pressure on Howell a day after a Republican-dominated subcommittee voted to kill five redistricting proposals in one swoop with little discussion.
At its meeting Monday morning, the Constitutional Subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee ignored a request from a Democratic member to vote on the proposed constitutional amendments individually. The panel then tabled the redistricting measures on a single 4-3 vote.
Republican Dels. Randy Minchew of Leesburg, Mark Cole of Fredericksburg, Tim Hugo of Centreville and Jackson Miller of Manassas all voted to table the resolutions. Opposing the motion were Republican Del. Jason Miyares of Virginia Beach and Democratic Dels. Joseph Lindsey of Norfolk and Marcia Price of Newport News.
Democrats in the House of Delegates on Tuesday blasted the subcommittee’s action.
“In 2015, every single one of the General Assembly’s 122 incumbents who sought re-election won,” House Minority Leader David Toscano said in a news release.
“House Republicans have now killed every single redistricting amendment this session, including their own. We call upon the speaker to revive these amendments for a full floor vote, as Virginians deserve to know where their leaders stand on this issue.”
Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria, who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, said, “Gerrymandering has distorted election results and diluted the power of individual voters. A system in which incumbents can choose their voters and draw political opponents out of districts is undemocratic. We need a full floor vote on a redistricting amendment now.”
Brian Cannon, executive director of One Virginia 2021, an advocacy group, condemned the subcommittee’s decision to kill HJ 763, which was proposed by Del. Steve Landes, R-Augusta County. It sought to prohibit any electoral district from being drawn “for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring any political party, incumbent legislator, member of Congress, or other individual or entity.”
“This amendment represents the core component of redistricting reform. It is simple: If you think politicians should be able to carve out their political opponents, then you are for gerrymandering and the elimination of competition in our elections,” Cannon said.
“This was particularly disappointing given that Delegate Minchew has previously supported redistricting reform and today he cast the deciding vote in his subcommittee to kill even the most modest efforts to stop gerrymandering.”
Minchew opened Monday’s subcommittee meeting by saying there would be no testimony on the 28 items on the agenda, unless there was a question from a committee member. He noted that the subcommittee had held a three-hour meeting the previous week.
When the redistricting proposals came up, Price requested to have them voted on separately. She was denied.
Then, with one vote, the subcommittee killed:
- Landes’ resolution and a similar proposal (HJ 581) sponsored by Del. Rip Sullivan, D-Arlington.
- Three resolutions to create an independent redistricting commission. Those measures were HJ 628, sponsored by Del. Ken Plum, D-Fairfax County; HJ 651, sponsored by Del. Betsy Carr, D-Richmond; and HJ 749, sponsored by Del. John Bell, D-Loudoun County.