With so much attention focused on this year’s presidential race, it might be easy for Virginia voters to miss the significance of Amendment 1, further down the ballot on November 3.  

“It is very significant! The fact that both parties within the legislature were willing to give up some control over the redistricting process to put this to the voters is somewhat remarkable,” said Virginia Tech expert Nick Goedert, an authority on the topic of gerrymandering, redistricting and the impact on elections.”

If Amendment 1 passes, a bipartisan commission will be established to draw new district lines next year for state legislative and congressional districts, in lieu of state legislators directly drawing these districts themselves.  

 “The process will also be much more transparent to the public, and legislators will no longer have almost complete power to draw their own districts to suit their own reelection prospects,” said Goedert.

Amendment 1 would establish a 16-member commission, including eight legislators and eight citizens, to draw the lines for congressional, state Senate, and state House districts. The legislators would be four Republicans and four Democrats chosen by their party leaders. Critics of Amendment 1 say it fails to include affirmative protections for communities of color in the map-drawing process.

“I don’t think the amendment is perfect. I would prefer more independence in the selection of citizen members, and ideally no members at all from the legislature itself.  However, I think it is still far preferable to the system currently in place, and closer to the best we could hope to achieve given our legislative process.”

Nicholas Goedert is an assistant professor of political science, working on a broad research agenda related to legislative elections and American politics.  His research has been published in journals including the American Journal of Political Science, State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Election Law Journal, and Research and Politics.   He is currently completing a book manuscript on the interaction of gerrymanders and electoral conditions or partisan tides, which he hopes to see published in 2020.  He served as an expert witness in the Wisconsin redistricting case Whitford v. Gill (adjudicated by the U.S. Supreme Court during summer 2018), and has also served as a consultant for the advocacy group Fair Vote and the Pennsylvania state legislature on election structure issues.  He holds a Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University and a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center. 

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