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COLUMN — Redistricting amendment is fair

For three quarters of the last century, Virginia was effectively a one-party state. That political party could enact anything they wanted.  Because they controlled the redistricting process, they could draw district lines to prevent the minority party from gaining much traction at all.  Likewise, they were able to draw districts that made it almost impossible for minorities to win seats in the Virginia General Assembly.

In fact, in the Richmond area, multi-member districts were created to dilute the minority vote in the City of Richmond. This was done by lumping mostly white Henrico County with Richmond into one large district. It was so bad that the courts opined that those multi-districts had to be redrawn as single member districts. That decision by the Supreme Court forced a second redistricting and election the next year that saw an increase in minority districts as well as Republican districts.

During the 90s, there was an upswing of Republican victories culminating with the Republican Party having the numbers needed to control the redistricting process.  As expected, the Republicans drew districts to their advantage after the 2000 census. Likewise, the Republicans in the House did the same in 2011, and the Democrats in the Senate, who had regained a majority, drew lines to suit themselves.  Hence the 15th District was redrawn, in which I lost over half of my old constituents, and gained more from other districts.

Neither party had pure hands, but the re-districting process, despite its long history, became an albatross around our necks.  A majority of both parties in both bodies concluded that there has to be a better way.  We began the process needed to change the state constitution to have bipartisan redistricting. Changing the constitution requires that the General Assembly agree to proposed changes during two legislative sessions. If that occurs, it goes to you, the voters, to approve any changes.

While it passed last year and this, a majority of Democrats in the House suddenly decided that, while they loved it last year when Republicans held power, they now think the constitutional amendment should be defeated so they can re-draw the districts. Arguing that they would be fair. They would have you forget their history of preventing minorities from being represented.

That is almost laughably silly. One of their reasons for now trying to convince you to defeat the amendment is that it does not guarantee Black representation on the bipartisan redistricting panel.  That might be a reasonable argument if the Senate Chairman of Rules that will oversee the Senate Democrat appointments wasn’t a minority, and if the House Majority Leader who is also a minority would not guarantee minority representation.

Look At Their Last Fairness

The 15th Senate District is a perfect example of what should not happen.  The Democrats wanted to help Louise Lucas and then Henry Marsh in the east, so they pushed out as many Republicans as possible from Prince George, Dinwiddie, and Brunswick. In an effort to save Roscoe Reynolds in the west, they found as many Democrat precincts as possible in Danville, Pittsylvania, and Halifax and added them to that district. Leaving the 15th District to stretch from the James River south of Hopewell to the Franklin County line in the west.  It is a great district with great constituents, however, I’m not sure that those in Prince George feel a relationship with those in Pittsylvania.  Likewise, I know those in Appomattox and Prince Edward share more kinship with Charlotte and Lunenburg than they do with Goochland and the City of Lynchburg.

I encourage everyone to make sure that when you vote, you look for the proposed constitutional amendment change.  It was fairly written with input from members of both the House and Senate as well as members of both parties.  It is time that districts are drawn as fairly as possible with consideration of communities of interest rather than how it suits one party or the other.  How you vote is your decision, I only suggest you consider what is fair and reasonable.

The Special Session

The special session appears to look as if it will continue for several more weeks. I will try to keep you posted, but be assured most patriots will be appalled with the results.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@verizon.net.