One of my legislative agenda items for this past General Assembly session was redistricting. Having split control between Democrats and Republicans seemed to be the perfect situation for the passage of some form of bipartisan redistricting. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. And if it didn’t pass in 2008, I don’t hold out much hope for the 2009 session, with the same cast of characters.
In this presidential election year, I think the one thing that is missed is that no president can advance his agenda without a supporting cast in Congress. Yet little attention gets paid to the process by which the lines are drawn for Congressional representation. As I talked to people “all fired up and ready to go” to elect a Democratic president, I ask about this and, for the most part, I get blank stares in return.
It comes as no surprise to me, then, that the DLC has issued a report in which they find that partisan gerrymandering of districts results in less competitive elections and lower voter turnout. In the report (pdf), it is estimated that voter turnout in Virginia would increase 43% if Congressional districts were more competitive.
There will be a census in 2010, the results of which will be used by the General Assembly to draw the district lines in 2011. Who we elect in 2009 – both as members of the General Assembly and as governor – will be drawing those lines, lines that we will have to live with for ten years. While I’m not ignoring the Congressional races for 2008, my thoughts and actions have already shifted towards 2009. I can only hope that the energy from the 2008 presidential campaign carries over.
All politics is local.
UPDATE: FYI – The Platform of the Democratic Party of Virginia, as adopted by the Party at the convention, now includes support for bipartisan redistricting:
We support legislative redistricting that is fair to all citizens, that follows logical geographical and jurisdictional boundaries, and that strives to keep communities of interest intact. We support the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission for the redistricting of legislative boundaries.
Now we just have to hold our electeds to it.