Redistricting in Virginia: A Futile Project?

The first glimpses at the Virginia Redistricting Commission’s maps for the state legislature are out.

All of them are wrong, and every single one of them is an abomination.

They are an abomination for two very distinct reasons. First, each member of the State Senate will be representing 135,000 people, and each House of Delegates member will be representing 85,000 residents.  For a Commonwealth which prides itself on having legislative bodies that truly represent the people at the most basic level of law and policy making, these numbers are simply too large.

The Code of Virginia is 29 volumes long.  There are 10’s of thousands of laws on the books that govern all 8.6 million Virginians.  And yet, each member is supposed to know what 85,000 constituents want and need?  Each Senator 135,000?  This is insane.

The last time that the number of legislators was changed was in 1880, when it was Decreased in size from 132 to 100, when the population of Virginia was only 1.5 million. That was a ratio of one member for every 11,364 residents.  When they decreased it that year, it was still one member for every 15,000 citizens.

Today, Virginia’s residents number 8.6 million, and the number of House of Delegates members has remained static from 1880.  When ballots are cast in November, each member of the House will represent approximately 86,000 people. That is a 7 ½ fold increase from 1880 when there were 132 members!

This is in no way, shape, or form, representative democracy. Especially at the local level.

When the Virginia State Senate was decreased to 40 members from 43 in 1880, each Senator represented 35,000. Now each represents almost four times that many people.

But that is not the only problem with redistricting.  The second is even more insidious.  Both sets of proposed maps carve out 40% of voters in Hard-Republican and Hard-Democratic districts.  These numbers from the last presidential election show more than 20 point margins of victory in either direction.  This means that in those districts, the nomination process for both parties is extremely skewed towards radicals.

What a fantastic proposal!  Both parties will start the legislature with at least 20 members of the radical left or the radical right!

The next 10 members on either side is skewed to heavy R’s or D’s, which means between a 10 and 20 percentage point advantage in those districts for each party.  This doesn’t help allay the fears of radicalization.  These members too will be beholden to the extremes of their party.

The remaining 40% of the state’s electorate will be in districts that could go either way. While that seems like a reasonable point to begin with, it is not.  These districts will have representatives that will only be successful when they can convince the fringes of either party to come out and back them, thus, consolidating the power of the fringe elements who already control their respective parties!

With each party’s map containing 30% of members that are exceptionally strong or strong R or D districts, it means the remaining members will come from “swing” districts that will swing only to the right or to the left where the radicals from both parties are in the majority.

This places the Commonwealth in the radicals’ hands, contradicting the intent of both the original Constitution of Virginia and the redrafted 1971 Constitution, resulting in a “representative democracy” that is now neither representative nor a democracy.

Without substantive numerical change and radical redistricting changes that make all of the districts competitive, there will be no end to radicalization and exceptionally underrepresentation of the average citizen.

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