The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Another path forward on gerrymandering

Virginia state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), left, talks with Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) at the state Capitol in Richmond in March.
Virginia state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), left, talks with Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) at the state Capitol in Richmond in March. (Steve Helber/AP)

Kudos to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for calling a special session to redraw 11 House of Delegates districts after a federal court found that they had been racially gerrymandered [“Va. session is called to redraw 11 districts,” Metro, Aug. 21]. Although House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said Republicans plan to fight the court’s Oct. 30 deadline, he correctly noted that the special session gives Mr. Northam and Democratic House leaders a chance to “demonstrate a willingness to engage in a good-faith effort.”

One way both parties could do just that is to use this opportunity for a trial run of the independent redistricting commission proposed by state Sen. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta). Although Mr. Hanger’s idea falls short of the truly independent citizens’ commissions that some states have created, his plan has some merit. It would create a seven-member panel, with four members appointed by the legislature’s party leaders, joined by three independent public officials — the auditor of public accounts, the state inspector general and the executive director of the Virginia State Bar. At least five members would have to agree to a plan.

Though the ultimate goal is a constitutional amendment, the General Assembly could respond to the court order by creating a Hanger-style commission and stipulating that it will adopt the plan the commission proposes. Surely that would provide a better outcome for the short term than more prolonged partisan legislative battles and the continual wasting of taxpayer money to defend a flawed plan.

Sara Fitzgerald, Falls Church

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