AUGUST 12, 2020

I’m still learning regarding the Virginia Redistricting Commission Amendment ballot measure of 2020. A portion of the amended Section 6 of the Virginia Constitution states that “Every electoral district shall be drawn in accordance with the requirements of federal and state laws that address racial and ethnic fairness, including the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, and judicial decisions interpreting such laws. Districts shall provide, where practicable, opportunities for racial and ethnic communities to elect candidates of their choice.” Sara Fitzgerald wrote that “General Assembly leaders will be able to choose legislators of color to serve as their representatives on the commission, and to nominate persons of color to the pools from which citizen members will be chosen. That is a further way to ensure that Black voices are heard.” What is the selection process by which Virginia General Assembly Leaders will choose non-white legislators and non-white private citizens for the commission?

Does an underrepresented constituency need a “safe seat,” or majority-minority district, for its politicians? What if the constituency is historically underrepresented? Michael Harriot suggests “Fight all gerrymandering and redistricting plans that follow unnatural boundaries. The ones that lump all minorities into one district weaken the voices outside those boundaries [via ‘packing’], and the ones that divide a single minority neighborhood into smaller pieces [via ‘cracking’] are usually attempts to fragment a voting majority.” Roland Martin once stated that “when it comes to those districts, it also comes down to resources.” Does the group with the greater economic resources tend not to get displaced against its will?

Are gerrymandering and gentrification analogous, in that both displace one group, usually the less powerful group, for another, with displacement leading to dilution of the group vote in the area the voter is displaced from? Sam Russek makes the connection: “Gentrification is fueled by tax incentives tied to government zoning, which can be gerrymandered depending on the desires of those in charge. These problems are often treated as separate. But partisan gerrymandering opens the door for financial gerrymandering — it’s a political game that ultimately falls on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable. Unaffordable housing is a segregating tool that diminishes community agency in a manner no less insidious than gerrymandering, and it is often because of gerrymandering that communities are denied a choice in the first place.”