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January 31, 2019

Today's Senate Vote Makes Virginia Closer to Redistricting Reform

By Meryl Ann Butler

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.


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.

Submitters Website:

Submitters Bio:

Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, 2013. In June, 2015, the combined views on her articles, diaries and quick link contributions topped one million. She was particularly happy that her article about Bree Newsome removing the Confederate flag was the one that put her past the million mark.

Her art in a wide variety of media can be seen on her YouTube video, "Visionary Artist Meryl Ann Butler on Creativity and Joy" at

A NYC native, her response to 9-11 was to pen an invitation to healing through creativity, entitled, "90-Minute Quilts: 15+ Projects You Can Stitch in an Afternoon" (Krause 2006), which is a bestseller in the craft field. The sequel, MORE 90-Minute Quilts: 20+ Quick and Easy Projects With Triangles and Squares was released in April, 2011. Her popular video, How to Stitch a Quilt in 90 Minutes with Meryl Ann Butler can be seen at

She has been active in a number of international, arts-related projects as a citizen diplomat, and was arts advisor to Baltimore's CIUSSR (Center for Improving US-Soviet Relations), 1987-89. She made two trips to the former USSR in 1987 and 1988 to speak to artists, craftpeople and fashion designers on the topic of utilizing the arts as a tool for global wellbeing. She created the historical "First US-Soviet Children's Peace Quilt Exchange Project" in 1987-88, which was the first time a reciprocal quilt was given to the US from the former USSR.

Her artwork is in collections across the globe.

Meryl Ann is a founding member of The Labyrinth Society and has been building labyrinths since 1992. She publishes an annual article about the topic on OpEdNews on World Labyrinth Day, the first Saturday in May.

OpEdNews Senior Editor Joan Brunwasser interviewed Meryl Ann in "Beyond Surviving: How to Thrive in Challenging Times" at

Find out more about Meryl Ann's artistic life in "OEN Managing Ed, Meryl Ann Butler, Featured on the Other Side of the Byline" at

On Feb 11, 2017, Senior Editor Joan Brunwasser interviewed Meryl Ann in Pink Power: Sister March, Norfolk, VA at

"Creativity and Healing: The Work of Meryl Ann Butler" by Burl Hall is at

Burl and Merry Hall interviewed Meryl Ann on their BlogTalk radio show, "Envision This," at

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