Virginia Is Up For Grabs THIS November

Graphic: Gerardo Alba for The Nib

The first time I ever heard about a non-partisan commission drawing election maps it came as part of a proposal to have blue California and red Texas mutually disarm. Democrats in control of the California legislature would cede the right to draw the maps in the Golden State and Republicans in control of the Texas legislature would do the same there. The California Democrats agreed. The Texas Republicans didn’t. California went ahead with the plan anyway, some thinking Texas would be shamed into following suit. They weren’t. So California is a non-gerrymandered state and Texas is a super-gerrymandered state.

Gerrymandering is bad whether it’s done in Texas or Ohio or Florida by Republicans or by Democrats in Maryland or Illinois. I have a proposal: Virginia is a very gerrymandered state but there’s a Democratic governor and razor thin Republican control of the state Senate and of the House of Delegates.

In 5 months, Virginia voters will be deciding whether or not to turn the legislature over to the Democrats or not. That’s right, this coming November, not in 2020.

If the Democrats win just a net of 3 seats in each chamber, they’ll be drawing the district maps without any help from the GOP.

Virginia has 11 congressional seats and right now, there are 4 Republicans and 7 Democrats– and that’s in Republican-drawn districts! If the Democrats win, they could redraw the map so that there are just 2 Republicans and 9 Democrats and they could redraw the state legislative seats to give them a lock for ten years– the way the Republicans did when they won control.

OR… Virginia could do the right thing– not unilateral disarmament the way the California Democrats did, but a real deal with their neighbor to the south– North Carolina, which is likely to gain one seat after the census. There, both houses of the state legislature are controlled by the GOP… but the governor is a Democrat, so the Republicans aren’t going to just get their way no matter what anyway. Could they be persuaded to agree to a non-partisan commission along with Virginia so that fair districts are drawn in both states? If not North Carolina, how about Ohio, which is about to lose a seat and will need to redraw their districts to reflect that loss?

Goal ThermometerFirst we have to elect a Democratic legislature in Virginia. Blue America is supporting 4 progressives running in November, Herb Jones, Qasim Rashid, Lee Carter and Elizabeth Guzman. You can contribute to their campaigns at the Blue America  legislative thermometer on the right.

Remember what the NY Times wrote last week:

“While much of the country’s attention is focused on presidential politics, the gerrymandering ruling last week instantly raised the stakes for the nation’s state legislative races, which are often overlooked by voters, but can shape the course of policy from abortion rights to education. Yet this cycle of legislative elections carries added significance: In most states, the political party that wins control of the legislature gains the power to draw once-a-decade maps setting district boundaries for state and congressional elections after a new census count… [A] tiny statehouse election in coastal Virginia could have national reverberations.”

Also, Qasim Rashid’s race (SD-28) brings a new dimension, as the FBI has charged and arrested an extremist who threatened to kill him. Rashid is a human rights lawyer and is continuing to fight to win, despite the real and ongoing death threats. Hence why it is that much more important we continue to support him by donating to his campaign. He told me today that, like our other candidates in Virginia, he is

“committed to passing a $15 minimum living wage, expanding healthcare, increasing education access, and reforming our criminal justice system… We have a chance to do something historic this election and it depends on one factor only– whether Democrats come out to vote. If we vote we win. So let’s take control of our future, get out and vote, and flip Virginia Blue.”


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