Let’s turn up the heat on redistricting

I wasn’t in Virginia for the 2001 redistricting, so it’s hard to compare the current atmosphere to last time. (I was in West Virginia at the time where Democrats were in solid control and I don’t remember gerrymandering being much of an issue.) But it seems to me that ordinary citizens are paying better attention to the process, and they’re not liking what they’re seeing.

This is good. The process is a politicized mess that should please no one. Republicans are irritated with the map drawn up by Senate Democrats. Democrats are angry about the map drawn up by House Republicans. And citizens groups are torqued off at both parties. Even some legislators are criticizing the process.

“The majority parties in both houses took a parochial, self-centered, selfish, protect-the-incumbent approach that was decidedly and markedly not the people’s business,” said Del. Joseph. D. Morrissey, D-Henrico, in a floor speech.

Student teams across the state drew maps for a contest designed to show what redistricting would look like without political influence. Those maps were barely given a glance by lawmakers according to Anita Kumar’s Virginia politics blog in The Washington Post. “We’re here to do the people’s business but in viewing the legislative proposal from the Senate and House, it is clear that they put their own business first and not the people’s,” said Morrissey, who plans to introduce a map based on one created by a George Mason University team.

I could be wrong, but I’m hoping that legislators are overplaying their hands with their nakedly political approach to redistricting. There’s too much information out there for voters to compare. If lawmakers don’t pay attention to the criticism of their approach, it’s possible, as my former colleagues at The Roanoke Times said this morning, “Citizens just might remember in August and November which of their elected representatives voted to protect themselves and their parties rather than listen to their constituents.”

Wouldn’t that be something?

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