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What’s Next: Redrawing Political Lines, Keeping Incumbents Honest

What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Last year’s Redistricting Commissioning Constitutional Amendment approved by Virginia voters changed how we will draw lines for the Virginia Legislature and United States House of Representatives from state legislators to a process to be determined by an independent redistricting commission.

This 16-member commission composed of eight legislators and eight citizen participants has been hosting meetings since July 13 and will continue to do so through October.

The clock has begun ticking since the Census released population data on Aug. 12. The commission will have 45 days from the release to draw maps of Virginia’s House and Senate districts to the State Legislature for consideration, and 60 days for a map of U.S. House districts.

This past Monday August 23, the commission voted 12-4 for an agreed-upon bipartisan group of independent, but politically aligned, map-drawers to start from a clean slate, rather than beginning with current district lines.

This was a positive step in the right direction, but what happened via a proposed motion from George Barker, a Democrat representing parts of Alexandria City, Fairfax, and Prince William and leading Senate Republican Steve Newman. They proposed starting from old maps because it “could help the commission gain needed support for the maps from the General Assembly, which will have to approve the maps for them to be enacted,” as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Luckily the proposal failed 9-7, but is still a disturbing development for many reasons.

This shows that A — it is likely that the Republicans will block votes against the new lines, and B — that there are incumbent Democrats that are hesitant to vote for new lines in fear of losing their seats, including in extremely liberal districts adjacent to Arlington.

Democrats hold a thin lead in the Legislature and we need every vote possible to pass these independently drawn lines. The result if these lines aren’t approved by the General Assembly: redistricting will be handed over to the conservative leaning Supreme Court of Virginia. This is a large part of why most Republicans will vote in block against any proposal given by the independent commission.

This is likely the most important administrative task that the Virginia legislature will vote on this decade as it will re-draw lines for the next 10 years. We cannot leave this process to a court process where six out of seven judges were appointed by a Republican-led General Assembly.

I would like to laud Delegate Marcus Simon of Falls Church, who has been a champion of a fair and independent redistricting from the very beginning and throughout these commission hearings, for being able to see through the technicalities of every step in this process.

After this process is through, my hope is that the commission will have done a commendable job of drawing fair, compact and non-discriminatory lines for our new General Assembly and U.S. House of Representatives. If you believe this to be the case, reach out to your Delegate and State Senator encouraging them to support the measure. Even strong Democratic districts are at risk of legislators voting for their own self-serving interests. Find your legislators online.

Nicole Merlene is an Arlington native and former candidate for Virginia State Senate. She has served as a leader in the community on the boards of the Arlington County Civic Federation and North Rosslyn Civic Association, as an Arlington Economic Development commissioner, in neighborhood transportation planning groups, and as a civic liaison to the Rosslyn Business Improvement District.

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(This Community Post was written by 9th Street Chamber Music and underwritten by Embracing Arlington Arts .)

9th Street Chamber Music is back in business for its second season! 9SCM is disrupting the stereotypes of classical music as stuffy, dry, and elite through dynamic yet accessible performances and its one-of-a-kind String Quartet Intensive for young musicians in the DC Metro area.

[9th Street Quartet](https://www.9thstreetchambermusic.com/9th-street- quartet)’s first concert is on Sunday, October 16 at 4:00 PM. The group will offer, for the first time, a ‘Playlist Shuffle’ themed concert featuring single movements of string quartet favorites. Tickets for this concert can be found here, and are $20 for adults and FREE for all students under 18.

Rehearsals began Monday, September 27 for the String Quartet Intensive, welcoming 32 new and returning members to the program. These talented musicians in grades 7 through 12 represent over fifteen area schools throughout Northern Virginia, DC and Maryland, and are an integral part of the growing 9SCM community. Their first performance will take place on Monday, November 28 at 7:30 PM.

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Now you can have fun with your family and friends when deciding where to eat!

Just hop aboard The Lunch Train and set the destination for: breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, or nightlife!

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Vini Franchetti Wine Dinner

Join us as we explore Vini Franchetti & their two sister vineyards Passopisciaro (Sicily) and Vini Franchetti (Tuscany) for our Sicily/Tuscany Wine Dinner!

Sunday, Oct 9 @ 6pm

Special Guest: This wine dinner we will be hosting the wine maker

Homebuying 101: Steps to Getting Pre-Approved

Are you ready to jump into homeownership or started considering it but don’t know where to start? Financial preparation is key when thinking about purchasing your first home and the first step to getting pre-approved. Join ACFCU for our Homebuying

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