October 3, 2013

The Sept. 29 editorial “Virginia’s incumbent-protection plan” pointed out that partisan, gerrymandered districts give potential candidates little incentive to run and citizens little reason to vote. Districts drawn to ensure safe seats fail the majority of voters.

This year’s Virginia election is marginally better than the one two years ago: 45 uncontested House races, compared with 63 in 2011. Yet in some “competitive” races, the opponent has no serious chance of winning. Fortunately, the incentive to vote will be boosted this fall by contested races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

Virginia’s 2011 redistricting proved that the majority party in the General Assembly will carve districts to hold onto power. Yet Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s Bipartisan Redistricting Commission showed that citizens from both parties, using mapping software, could work together to produce an enlightened plan. Sadly, the governor did not back his own commission’s plan.

Citizens are building a reform effort. A redistricting coalition is forming in Charlottesville, bringing together organizations such as the League of Women Voters and individuals from around the commonwealthto create a fair, transparent system by changing redistricting laws or the Virginia Constitution.

Voters must demonstrate that they want a say in their state government by showing up at the polls. Only 40 percent of Virginia voters went to the polls in 2009 (the last gubernatorial election), compared with 70 percent in the presidential election of 2012.

Anne Sterling, Richmond

The writer is president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia.