It seems that every week I read another editorial honoring a retiring Virginia legislator for their dedication and moderation, bemoaning the loss of another elder statesmen among a growing sea of partisans. But the increasing partisanship of our Government is not an inevitable tide of modernity, it is the intentional result of an extremely partisan redistricting process. It is the product of a gerrymandering process where politicians pick their citizens instead of the other way around.
This year, Virginia’s elected officials had the opportunity to reform our redistricting process and enact bi-partisan redistricting. A smart, good-government policy that would allow Virginia’s citizens to pick their legislators instead of the other way around. What happened instead was a complete surrender to partisan machinations:
After years of significant pressure on the governor’s office and the legislature to adopt a nonpolitical process, 2011 showed a promising start for redistricting. Gov. Bob McDonnell formed an independent, bipartisan advisory commission and a competition had college students drawing their own maps — without regard to incumbent status or political sway.
So, how did Virginia’s voters fare in this once-in-a-decade game of legislative redistricting? According to a little-reported study released in April by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, they may be worse off than before. Among the report’s conclusions, “The maps presented to the Governor by the General Assembly would make a bad situation worse for the coming decade.”
Unless we take back the process so that citizens are once again picking their leaders instead of the other way around, we will continue to see cheap partisanship over responsible policy making. This was a clear failure of leadership, not a lack of will by the people.
To learn about how your elected officials picked who they wanted as their constituents so they can stay in power, visit VPAP’s page and interactive map on redistricting.