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Opinion Virginia should stick with redistricting reform

The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond on Nov. 5, 2019.
The Virginia State Capitol in Richmond on Nov. 5, 2019. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Regarding the Dec. 29 Metro article “In Virginia, future of remapping uncertain”:

Calling the amendment plan nonpartisan is inaccurate. It should be referred to as “bipartisan” or “partly bipartisan, partly nonpartisan.” It explicitly says partisan legislators will make up half the members of the commission, and it allows party leaders to submit candidates for the citizen members. The article did a great job of explaining the makeup of the Virginia Supreme Court but neglected to mention that our justices are reappointed every 12 years by the legislature. I hope our conservative justices are too honorable to stoop to gerrymandering to protect their seats. But the possibility can’t be ruled out.

Rachel Gatwood, Reston

I was disappointed to see the “noncommittal” response by Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax), the new speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, to whether Democrats will continue to support a constitutional amendment to create a redistricting commission. As Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 explained, the amendment requires implementing legislation, and that legislation — which will be enacted by a Democratic-controlled General Assembly and governor — can dictate as specifically as legislators like what the commission, and the state Supreme Court, must or may not do. In particular, it could mandate that districts not be drawn to favor one party or minimize the “efficiency gap” that many political scientists believe is the best test of gerrymandering.

The public overwhelmingly supports taking redistricting away from legislators, and the recent posturing of Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) [“Virginia’s redistricting amendment could guarantee partisan gerrymandering,” Local Opinions, Dec. 15] shows why, like Frodo and the ring, even the purest of legislators is corrupted by the power to draw his or her own district.

Jamie Conrad, Alexandria

Virginia Democrats should not dare turn their backs on the nonpartisan redistricting commission. Their attitude seems to be “The Republicans cheated, so now it’s our turn.”

If they abandon redistricting, the voters who recently put them in power will put them out next time, as they would well deserve.

Doing the right thing is usually good politics, too.

John Fay, Wheaton

The Dec. 29 Metro article “In Virginia, future of remapping uncertain” drew my mind to Michael Gerson’s Dec. 20 Friday Opinion column, “A chance to stop our ethical descent.” The juxtaposition with the situation Virginia Democrats face over their cold feet about redistricting reform is profound.

Mr. Gerson offered three points in his essay: hypocrisy, moral hazard and character.

It is hypocritical to now back away from the move toward fair redistricting passed in the first reading of the amendment. It must pass, unchanged, this coming session before voters’ final approval in November.

The moral hazard created by violating the will of Virginians, of whom 72 percent agree regarding fair redistricting, will show Democrats to be incurable partisans willing to thwart the people.

Democrats lay claim to the character required to, as Mr. Gerson wrote, “make a difficult moral choice before them.” Mr. Gerson noted that this might “be the last, best time to redraw some moral lines . . . that have nearly been erased in our politics.”

Virginia legislators, show us the “Virginia way,” and stop this partisan race to the bottom. Advance the present redistricting amendment. Add implementing legislation to improve the process. Avoid the hypocrisy and moral hazard implied by another path. Doing so will show the character we expect from our representatives, and your faith that the people will choose wisely on Election Day 2020.

David Denson, Clifton

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