League of Women Voters Fights for Redistricting Reform

by ARLnow.com January 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm 2,824 17 Comments

(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Every ten years, following the U.S. Census, the Virginia legislature gathers in Richmond to redraw the state’s legislative boundaries. And every ten years, the party that’s in power at the time attempts to draw the borders in a way that favors their electoral chances.

It’s called ‘gerrymandering,’ and it’s practiced in state houses across the country.

But the Virginia chapter of the League of Women Voters has seen enough. Together with the national LWV organization, they’ve been pushing for the past seven years to take redistricting responsibility away from state legislators and put it into the hands of some sort of nonpartisan commission or process.

“We believe that although we have some great state legislators, them drawing their own lines is like having the foxes guarding the hen house,” said Olga Hernandez, president of the LVW of Virginia, at a forum in Ballston last week. “We just think there should be a fairer way of representing people and the interests of the community”

It may be too late for this go-round; the redistricting process is set to get underway in April. Since the forum, Gov. Bob McDonnell has created a bipartisan commission to help oversee this year’s redistricting process. But Hernandez is hopeful that lawmakers may finally be on the verge of passing more permanent reform that would promote transparency instead of the past preponderance of backroom deals.

Redistricting reform has made for some strange but powerful political bedfellows. Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D), Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds (D) and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) have all been supportive of the League’s efforts, Hernandez said.

“It’s not just one side” of the political spectrum, she said.

Hernandez points to California as a state that was heavily gerrymandered after the last census, but which has since reformed its system thanks to a voter referendum and support from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. While she believes Virginia could be on the same path, she acknowledged that it’s still an uphill battle.

“It’s hard to get people to give up power,” Hernandez noted.

This year, as far as Arlington’s state legislators and congressman are concerned, redistricting is not expected to have much of an effect. While rapidly-growing Northern Virginia counties like Prince William and Stafford are likely to add districts and radically change district boundaries, Arlington has grown at a more modest pace and will likely only see minor changes and contractions in district borders.

  • Lou

    No doubt there will be a wide spectrum of politicians supporting this. They all would like to take over….I mean offer suggestions to, the effort.

  • johnny b

    If Ms. Hernandez were truly looking for a “non-partisan” solution, she wouldn’t be referring to Mr. Cuccinelli as “controversial”. Her liberal bias shows through with this remark.
    If she wants some change, she should work to see that the DNC doesn’t put forth another Socialist that scares the majority over to the right for the next census.

    • She never said he was controversial. That was our description. It was to hammer home the point that the political figures listed were “strange bedfellows.”

      • johnny b

        Arlington’s Del. Bob Brink (D), controversial Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), former gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds (D) and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) have all been supportive of the League’s efforts, “Hernandez said.”

        Well gee whiz…where would I get the idea she said it??
        And why no ‘descriptives’ of the other guys? I guess it’s ARLnow’s liberal bias that’s showing through.
        My apologies to Ms. Hernandez.

        • el fat kid

          the oh so predictable conservative game of attacking media outlets, even ones as centered as arlnow, for having a liberal bias in a weak attempt to push the coverage more to the right. Kind of like when you whine that liberals always play the victim. Speaking of cheap tricks, Conan tonight.

      • Now that I think about how I phrased the sentence, I’m going to delete the word “controversial” for attribution clarity. Thanks.

    • el fat kid

      i thought we were done w/ the “socialist,” “fascist,” “commie” crap for at least a minute?

    • mehoo

      That’s silly. He is controversial. It’s simply an observation, not a judgment. It means there is controversy surrounding him, i.e. there are people who have different, strong opinions – on more than one side – about him.

      YOU are the one showing your bias by seeing this as biased!

  • Bender

    So, the League of Women VOTERS wants to take it away from legislators who were elected by the VOTERS and instead have some unelected bureaucrats impose their will on the voters?

    • Steve

      They may have been elected by the VOTERS but were they elected by the WOMEN VOTERS? That’s what’s important.

    • mehoo

      Yes. It makes sense. This affects the ability of the voters to use their power. Elected officials shouldn’t be in charge of changes to the system that puts them in power in the first place.

  • Dave

    I don’t know if I would say there isn’t much of a chance of redistricting reform affecting Arlington. Virginia’s 8th Congressional District is pretty gerrymandered. Just look at the shape of it, the bulk is Arlington and Alexandria and then there’s this thin stretch of land that goes out to a big blob around Reston. If there was reform, the 8th could be getting smaller, to cut out the spit of land out towards Reston, or bigger, to make the district encompass more land (again eliminating the stretch out towards Reston).

    • Lou

      They could give the part of Arlington north of 66 back to the 10th, for starters.

  • Helen

    I wish they would take me out of the 8th. The tiny strip that is in the Falls Church (Baileys) area.

    • mehoo


  • NorthAdams

    the best part is that the Obama Administration gets to approve whatever happens as Virginia is still under federal review of redistricting.
    So the Cooch needs to play fair. If not, everyone will get sequestered and forced to make a decision before they can do anything else.

  • Darwin

    Well there is only one thing I think that we can do about this……repeal the 19th amendment.


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