The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
On November 3rd, Virginians will have the opportunity to vote for a constitutional amendment requiring an independent redistricting commission.
After years of campaigning for it and eventually passing it through the General Assembly on a bipartisan basis, Democrats across Virginia have reversed course. They are tripping all over themselves looking for an excuse to vote against it. Arlington Democrats rejected the yearslong efforts of Delegate Rip Sullivan and will ask voters to oppose it on their November sample ballot.
Some of us have maintained for quite some time that the idea was a false promise of reform. Map drawing commissioners would not be directly accountable to the voters, and elected officials could shrug off blame if the results from a commission were tilted in favor of one party or the other. Moreover in places like California, “independently” drawn maps do not necessarily result in districts that reflect the makeup of the state. Democrats there successfully pressed for their favored map.
Over the years in Virginia, Democrats suggested Republican opposition to a commission process was political. They argued that a Republican majority in Richmond simply wanted to maintain a partisan advantage. “Politicians want to pick their voters,” they would say.
However, nearly a decade ago a Senate Democrat majority drew the current Virginia Senate lines. They lost the majority under those lines in 2011 and 2015, only to gain it back again in 2019.
House of Delegate Republicans drew most of the current lines (judges redrew some of them prior to the 2019 elections). While the GOP held the majority for much of the decade, including a number of Republicans sitting in seats won by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, they lost it in 2019.
Now that Democrats are on the verge of the redistricting commission becoming law, they are claiming the amendment is not quite good enough. In other words, if Democrats defeat it now they can rewrite the proposed amendment and tilt it in their partisan favor since they do not need to rely on Republican majorities controlling the General Assembly in order to pass it.
In the meantime, if they are successful in defeating the amendment the Democrats have the added bonus of being able to draw all the lines themselves without any Republican input. They can lock in General Assembly majorities and safe Congressional seats by picking their voters in 2021.
This politically driven about-face screams hypocrisy of the highest level.
Mark Kelly is a 19-year Arlington resident, former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.