On Thursday the Virginia State Senate voted unanimously to pass redistricting reform. SJ306, a constitutional amendment that would create a "hybrid" commission of eight legislators and eight citizens to draw legislative maps, passed 40-0 and will now be sent to the House of Delegates.
Brian Cannon of OneVirginia2021 said:
SJ306 has a lot of elements we've been fighting for: citizen involvement (including a citizen as chair of the commission), a bipartisan selection process for the citizen members, and lots of safeguards against a partisan gerrymander. After yesterday, it also includes provisions for transparency - all meetings, communications, and data will be open to the public, and the public will be able to provide feedback on any proposed maps.
I want to share with you a more detailed acount of what happened yesterday in the Senate because things move fast and it may be hard to keep the details of every development straight. SJ306 was on the Senate floor for its second read (it needs three to pass), and two amendments were presented. We supported both of these changes, and one passed and the other did not.
Transparency: Sen. Janet Howell offered the transparency amendment to SJ306, with broad bipartisan support from some unexpected corners! It makes the commission meetings open and the data public. It's VITAL for our ability to know what the commission is doing and provide real feedback - and it's a way to support those commissioners trying to do the right things and to hold accountable those who are not. It's how we shine a light on any potential shenanigans. The addition of these requirements makes SJ306 immeasurably better! This amendment passed with a voice vote.
Anti-gerrymandering language: Sen. Glen Sturtevant offered the anti-gerrymandering amendment to SJ306. It had bipartisan support, but not enough . Senators Sturtevant, McClellan, Ebbin, and Deeds all spoke passionately in favor of this simple and important amendment, but it failed in a 23-17 vote.
As we deal with these mixed results and move forward, we have to remember the principles that got us this far: these districts belong to Virginians, not to any party or politician. We want a transparent, independent commission with clear rules that prohibit partisan gerrymandering and protect our communities. So far, we've got 50% of that. We have transparency and a hybrid commission, which will still fundamentally change the way we redistrict in Virginia! But we will continue to fight to change some minds and win some votes in this session to achieve the reforms that 78% of Virginia voters say they want.
OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting is a group of dedicated people from across the political spectrum who believe congressional and state legislative districts belong to Virginians, and not to any legislator, special interest, or political party. We advocate for a fair process, not a particular political outcome.