Amendment 1 Does Not Create an Independent Redistricting Commission
By Cathie Lee
In a healthy democracy, citizens choose their representatives, not the other way around. A fair, impartial districting process keeps politicians accountable and secures policies and laws the public needs like affordable health care and quality education. However, the redistricting proposal on the ballot this November, Virginia’s Constitutional Amendment #1, does not achieve that goal. Instead, Amendment 1 institutionalizes an already broken two-party, highly partisan system.
Here’s why. A truly independent redistricting commission would need experts to analyze the citizenry and draw fair and unbiased voting maps that accurately reflect the population. Imagine the expertise a commission would need to perform that task. It might include a cartographer, demographer, mathematician, psychologist, sociologist, mediator, political scientist, labor organizer, business leader, educator, diversity professionals and minority representatives. Throw in a lawyer or two to explain election law.
The Redistricting Commission created by Amendment 1 does not include any of the above experts. Instead, it consists of 16 members — eight legislators (four Democrats and four Republicans) and eight citizens. The eight citizens will be chosen by retired judges from lists provided by the legislators, meaning the Democrat and Republican parties. Will the two major political parties put independents, educators or environmentalists on their citizen lists? No. Common sense dictates the citizen members will be fierce party advocates and/or big donors because political power is at stake. Power is too important to allow impartial citizens in the room.
It gets worse. Two members of the “Independent Commission” can block whatever map is created and send the entire redistricting process to the Virginia Supreme Court. The justices of the Virginia Supreme Court, currently two women and five men, are appointed by the General Assembly to 12-year terms. They are frequently reappointed, and many do not leave until required at the age of 73 when they can remain on senior status with a lighter caseload. Virginia’s bench is stacked with conservatives. The earliest possible appointment is 2022. The court has a long history of decisions favoring Republican causes: big business and government agencies or boards at the expense of citizens.
Contrary to popular belief, judges are not independent, apolitical people. Remember, they are appointed by the General Assembly. They are lawyers, typically from large firms, noticed because of their political prowess, connections and contributions to the cause. I’ve worked for judges. Today, I make my living trying to persuade them. It’s a frustrating profession because too often judges know the result they want and find the case(s) or legal maxims to justify their decision.
Recent history is telling. In a 2019 suit, the Hanover NAACP alleged that minority students attending schools with confederate general names were denied their right to an education free from discrimination and compelled speech. Requiring students, particularly athletes, to wear names and mascots that dehumanized them violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The NAACP’s complaint was brilliant and based on solid legal theories. Senior Judge Robert Payne dismissed the case without a trial, deciding, in part, a two-year statute of limitations applied. The NAACP was too late because the time to sue expired two years after the schools were named, around 1960 and 1971.
Is that really the law? Arguably, no. Ignoring the fact that the parents of the students seeking relief may not have been born 50-60 years ago making it impossible for them to sue, Judge Payne ignored the continuing harm rule. This legal doctrine begins a statute of limitations when the harm ends. The harm was still happening when the NAACP filed suit, so it was clearly timely. Judge Payne is a 79-year-old white man selected by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Does it surprise anyone he relied on a shaky statute of limitations instead of the continuing harm rule to support his decision?
Judicial politics have consequences beyond school names. The 2017 House of Delegates race in Newport News saw Democrat Shelly Simonds beat Republican David Yancey by one vote. The Republicans found a ballot that had been thrown out because the voter marked both candidates’ names. The Republicans asked a three-judge panel to count the discarded ballot for Yancey. Judge Bryant L. Sugg announced the decision that the voter intended to pick Yancey even though he/she marked both bubbles and put a stroke through Simonds, like the stroke the voter put through the Republican candidate for Governor, Ed Gillespie. The judges’ decision meant the winner had to be decided by coin toss and Yancey won. The Democrats also had a ballot they wanted the panel to rule on, but like Judge Payne, the panel said the Democrats were too late. Guess who recommended and helped appoint Judge Suggs? Yep, Delegate David Yancey, who won the coin toss and the House of Delegates seat. Did Judge Suggs disclose the potential conflict or recuse himself? Nope.
So, can you really count on eight legislators and eight citizens selected by legislators or the Virginia Supreme Court to draw fair and impartial redistricting maps? Do you want a Redistricting Commission with those members embedded in the Virginia Constitution? As you weigh your decision, look at the ballot from the Newport News debacle. Should this vote have been counted for Yancey or thrown out? What if the justices add one more Republican house into a district? Do judges really make fair and impartial decisions blind to parties or politics? Sadly, my life experience requires me to vote NO to Amendment 1 in the hope that we will get a truly independent Redistricting Commission with the impartial experts we desperately need to draw fair election maps.
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OCTOBER DEMOCRATIC WOMEN'S COFFEE - STAY TUNED FOR DATE
All Democratic Women Are Welcome!
We'll be holding our next Hanover Democratic Women's Zoom Coffee in mid-October, so be looking for more information on that soon. As we head into the last stretch of this most critical election ever, it's good to take a little time for energizing fellowship with other Democratic Women. Come to learn, come to talk.
Let's take inspiration from our beloved "Notorious RBG" to continue to work to preserve our democracy. We can still learn about ways to help turn out our Democratic voters and actions we can take right up through Election Day.
There's plenty of room for a really big group at these virtual coffees, so everybody, please join us and please encourage like-minded friends and neighbors to "zoom" with us, too.
For more information contact Diane Neergaard at email@example.com or 804-304-1951.
Our Coffee Caucus is a group of Democratic women of all ages who, in non-Covid-19 times, meet monthly, sometimes in the day and sometimes in the evening, at the homes of volunteer hostesses at different locations around the county to meet other Democratic women and to find ways we can better work together.
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JOIN OUR OCTOBER MEN'S FORUM
After two successful and thought-provoking convenings of our virtual Men's Forum, we're ready to try for a third. Zoom in for our next digital gathering at 7 p.m., Wednesday, October 28 and stay tuned for speaker(s) and further details.
The now-virtual Men's Forum has long provided a candid way for Hanover Democrats to meet, talk politics and hear from interesting speakers in our predominantly Republican, but slowly turning Democratic county. Despite the ongoing pandemic, we are grateful for the opportunity to connect virtually, and to be back to our regularly scheduled programming. Thanks to everyone for your support!
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Hanover Democratic Sample Ballot
Message from Daniel McGraw. Chair HDC
As many of you know, early voting has already started. All registered voters can go to the County Registrar to vote in person, drop off their mail-in ballot, or participate in curbside voting. Going into this unprecedented election cycle, and as the first day of early voting started to approach, I felt a sense of urgency to share the Democratic Sample Ballot.
There were many email discussions taking place about what is the best decision. Many people across the state were engaging in intense social media discussions. And, early voters were asking me to share my opinion on the matter of Amendment One. Therefore, I called for a special session to hear from members of the Executive Committee. Prior to that session, I sent a survey to the committee leaders, and fielded email replies about the topic.
The committee agreed to only add a suggestion if we had consensus. Prior to the discussion, 50% of the members wanted a NO vote on Amendment One. Thirty percent (30%) wanted no decision made, 10 % were in favor of a YES vote, and 20% were undecided. I felt this was an accurate reflection of where the larger group stands. All major decisions have always been made by either the Chair and/ or the Executive Committee (EC). There was much discussion. A few important points were addressed: (1) We did not want to make a decision that would be extremely divisive of our membership; (2) We agreed to come to consensus; (3) We determined that this was an issue upon which the electorate would want the opinion of the Chair and EC.
As a result, we did come to a consensus that a NO vote marked on the ballot is the best decision. However, we also noted that some of our members, including members of the EC, may vote YES for Amendment One. I do not know what the future will hold: Whether we made the right decision or not will be determined in the decades to come if the NO vote prevails. After the meeting, I later heard from a few people that they were concerned that a member of our EC may have been a political consultant and there should have been a more equitable representation. We have definitely learned that it is important for counter-arguments to be equal in weight. Going forward, we will ensure that as many voices as possible can be heard when we are making important decisions. I do not have all of those ways of communication worked out yet, but utilizing Survey Monkey and other platforms come to mind. We do strive to be transparent.
You can view the opening arguments for voting for or against Amendment One here: (obtained from the Men's Forum) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhJDTYzeIdQ
Get those pens ready; packets of cards and address labels are ready for you. Each packet has 30 cards because that's how many addresses are on one sheet.
Needless to say, we are not gathering in one place to write postcards. People can write postcards from their own homes. Porch pickup will be available in Mechanicsville, Ashland, and Montpelier. Contact Colleen Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org for pickup locations.
As to stamps, writers are being asked to provide postage, if possible. It is recommended using a first-class stamp ($.55 or forever) to guarantee delivery. These are larger 5x7 cards, so there is more space to write! If anyone can't write but wants to donate stamps or vice versa, this will be coordinated.
Our message: There will be a sample paper attached to each packet. You can write for the entire BLUE TICKET (Elect Biden/Harris for President/Vice President, Re-elect Mark Warner for Senator, Elect Qasim Rashid for House of Representative) or any version of them. Write from your heart, what speaks to you about the importance of this election.
We are writing as PRIVATE CITIZENS, not as a part of HDC or any campaign (postcards are labeled with that message).
Keep it POSITIVE! Remind people about no-reason-needed, in-person early voting that has started at the elections offices in Hanover (these are all Hanover addresses right now) or absentee mail-in ballots.
Postcards should be mailed by October 15 to catch the early voting Once the 1,000 cards we have left are addressed, that will be a total of 6,000 volunteer postcards sent, which is great in a pandemic era with no parties. Thanks to everyone who has helped.
VOLUNTEER FOR QASIM RASHID
We have a great chance at beating Rob Wittman this year, but we need YOUR HELP NOW. Hopefully, many of you watched the Rashid-Wittman Debate for a good comparison between the two candidates. There was no comparison. We need to start now; it is only about five weeks until Election Day.
Various NON-CONTACT volunteer opportunities are available to help elect Qasim Rashid to be our next 1st Congressional District Representative.
These opportunities include:
1. Automatic phone-banking using the automatic dialing system, where your computer automatically dials, indicates who is talking, the appropriate questions to ask and then you record responses on your computer. Contacts will be throughout the 1st District.
2. Self-Dialing phone banking with you doing the dialing. A contact list and script will be provided. Contacts will be in Hanover County.
3. Literature drop (Lit-drop) You will be going door to door and leaving literature at the door with NO personal contact.
4. Virtual house parties to meet Qasim via Zoom or Google Meet.
5. GOTV Captains for distributing lit drop. Captains at staging areas for people to pick up their lit. The staging area could be McDonald’s, Starbucks, your home, or wherever.
Throughout, all volunteers MUST wear a mask and social distance (a minimum of 6 feet). We don't want others or our volunteers to become infected.
Josh Anderson is Qasim's Hanover County Captain at 571.235.5817 or email@example.com
To volunteer, please contact Josh as above or Don Barth at 804.299.3160 (phone and/or audio message)or 856.889.5905 (phone or text) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
OTHER VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES
We need to have a landslide victory for the Democrats in November so Trump can not contest the election. The only way to achieve this is to get everybody out to vote, which means we need everyone to volunteer.
Below are the volunteer opportunities:
Joe Biden/Kamala Harris and the coordinated campaign: Robert Morissette, email@example.com
Mark Warner: Ryan Jackson, firstname.lastname@example.org
It is less than 5 weeks until the election. Joe, Kamala, Mark, and Qasim need your help NOW!
Signs are here
We have Biden/ Harris signs! If you or your neighbors and friends want signs, send an email to email@example.com. Include in your email your name, address, phone number, and the number of yard signs you want. We even have I VOTED EARlY signs and bumper stickers. We also have a handful of 4' x 4' barn signs for those who want to produce a large display.
Voting has already started.
You can go to the Hanover County Wickham Building (7497 County Complex Road Hanover, VA 23069) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday for early voting, curbside voting, or to drop off your absentee ballot. You can also exchange your absentee ballot for an in-person ballot if that is your wish. The phone number for the registrar is 804-365-6080. Here is the Hanover County Democratic Committee ballot: HDC_Sample_Ballot_2020.pdf. On Saturday, October 24, several people will be gathering at Gandy Elementary School to perform a vote-early rally car ride from Gandy to the Wickham building. The gathering starts around 8:30 a.m. Even if you have already voted, your presence is appreciated. Social distancing and masks are required.
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Two events in October!
Saturday, Oct 10- Virtual monthly meeting with Del. Ayala
Join us virtually for our next monthly Hanover Democratic Committee meeting and hear from a candidate for lieutenant governor in the 2021 Virginia elections.
Delegate Hala Ayala of Prince William County will be our speaker at the meeting, which starts at 10 a.m. on October 10. Hala represents the 51st District and is running for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia with a vision for a strong, just, and prosperous future for the Commonwealth. Ayala, who would be the first woman and first Afro-Latina to hold the position, embodies the bridge between Virginia’s past and its future, as well as the bridge between struggle and success that many Virginia families face. Learn more at HalaforVirginia.com.
Here is the log-in information:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 856 9904 0716
By Phone+1 301 715 8592 US
Live Streamed on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK8XYH_xdXqcH1xE4kBoXiA
Have issues? Contact Steve as necessary.
Sunday, Oct 11- Party leaders come to Ashland
Qasim Rashid is the Democratic Candidate for the First Congressional District. Party leaders from across the state are coming to Ashland to show their support for Qasim and to talk about the state of our nation. At 2 pm on Sunday, October 11, join us on the front lawn of the Ashland Town Hall (101 Thompson Street, 23005). There will be live music starting around 1:30. Bring a lawn chair, wear a face mask, and respect social distancing. This is a great time to patronize local Downtown restaurants and merchants. Qasim Rashid will be walking around discussing his mission and purpose for running for Congress. Starting at 2 pm, we will hear from Qasim Rashid, state Sen. McClellan, Att. Gen. Herring, and more. The live band will continue to play after the speeches. This is a great time to socialize with distance and to support our local small business economy!
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