Incumbent Protection

A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune to hear Brian Cannon, Executive Director of One Virginia 2021, talk about redistricting in Virginia at the monthly meeting of the Hanover Democratic Committee.  His presentation had relevance – it came on the day we heard about the likely shift of Hanover County from the 7th to the 1st Congressional District.

But Mr. Cannon spoke more generally about the issue.  In the end, allowing legislators to draw their own electoral districts allows them to choose the voters – and often their opponents.  It amounts to an excellent system for incumbent protection. 

Cannon is an excellent and engaging speaker with an important story to tell about Virginia redistricting after the 2010 census.  Part of the story has to do with race and dilution of minority votes, which generated the lawsuit that led to new district lines for several Virginia Congressional districts.

The more important tale is one of Virginia legislators dividing communities of interest in ways that quiet their voices in the legislature, and Cannon makes this point forcefully.  It simply makes no sense to have three different State Senators – none of whom actually live in the City – representing the City of Richmond in the General Assembly.

More important still is the sordid story of Virginia’s legislators drawing district lines to stop potential opponents from mounting a challenge.  This is not a partisan critique from a liberal Democrat – the Blue Team gerrymandering intended to draw Bryce Reeves out of the 17th Senate District in 2011 so he couldn’t challenge Ed Houck tops the list of examples.  Too bad the effort failed – they drew Senator Reeves’ father out of the district by mistake – which says all you need to know about the Democratic Party of Virginia.

I would urge readers (both of you) to click the link above and toss a few coins to the One Virginia 2021 effort.  This is a good cause that matters for good government.

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