The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Virginians, don’t lose heart on redistricting

The Virginia State Capitol.
The Virginia State Capitol. (Julia Rendleman/For The Washington Post)
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The opening words of the Oct. 19 Metro article “Mistrust roils panel drawing Va. districts” pinpointed the problem: “Trust broke down further on the bipartisan Virginia Redistricting Commission.”

The commission created by the General Assembly and approved by voters is bipartisan, but partisanship is deeply ingrained in how the commission has functioned. I have watched hours of commission meetings. From the selection of attorneys, to the selection of map-drawers, to every map presented to the commission, partisanship has been strong from the beginning. Led by legislators, each “side” is compelled to defend its political power and to acquire more. No one can give an inch. The level of trust required to create maps is not available.

We have partisanship and lack of trust, but the current redistricting environment is still better than anything Virginians have ever had. Ten years ago — and for centuries before that — the redistricting process consisted of politicians making deals out of sight. The public had absolutely no role in the process. Thanks to the constitutional amendment, we now have transparency. We can watch all commission meetings as they happen and can review them anytime. Anyone can watch, attend, speak and comment in writing. No one can meet in secret. Although the process so far has not gone as hoped for, we should all recognize that redistricting in Virginia won’t return to the old process. Politicians will never again draw Virginia’s maps in secret.

F. Giselle Caruso, Alexandria

The writer monitors the Virginia
Redistricting Commission for OneVirginia2021.

Virginia residents shouldn’t lose heart. Unlike that of other states, Virginia’s gerrymandering typically protected the incumbents of either party. This type of gerrymandering fundamentally allowed elected representatives to pick their own voters rather than the voters picking their own representatives.

Though this current political environment makes things difficult for the commission, the intent behind the 2020 redistricting reform is still a solid move toward a healthier democracy where citizens are a relevant part of this process. Nearly two-thirds of Virginians from all across the commonwealth voted in favor of this reform; they were right to do so so that the voters can have the say they are entitled to rather than the other way around.

Pamela Berg, Alexandria