Monthly Two Cents
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.
- Parent Category: About HDC
BREAK OUT THE POSTCARDS
By Don Barth
POSTCARD PEOPLE! 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 Pick-up will be available in Mechanicsville, Ashland and Montpelier. Contact Colleen Berry at email@example.com 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! Please mail them yourselves between September 1 and October 15. Remind people about no-reason-needed, IN-PERSON early voting that starts September 18 at the elections offices in Hanover (these are all Hanover addresses right now) or absentee mail-in ballots.
- Parent Category: About HDC
black lives matter too!
By Daniel W. McGraw, Ed.D.
On Sunday, July 26, I joined a group of people on the lawn in front of the Town Hall in Ashland to discuss ways to improve our community. Noah Peterson had organized this group under the banner of #BlackLivesMatter. He placed signs, encouraged masks, respected social distancing, and had water available in the shade of a few trees. It was pleasant until a man, who seemed agitated, approached.
He demanded to see a permit. His volume escalated from a soft talk to nearly shouting. “Do you know what you are supporting,” he said. “Read the website; they are Marxists… Communists… their Socialist ideas are trying to brainwash everyone…” I had heard enough and interrupted him to ask one question before I would listen to any more of his opinions. It took several minutes before he calmed down enough to listen to my question. This man was genuinely agitated by the idea that a group of people was peacefully gathering to discuss community improvement next to the sign, “Black Lives Matter.”
“Sir,” I said. “I have not read all of the websites and documents to which you are referencing, but I can say this: I honor the ideals of the United States by the presence of our Flag (I was wearing an American Flag facemask). Does that mean that I have to support EVERYTHING that was EVER done under the banner of this Flag? Or, can we agree that the Flag stands for Freedom, even though there are many people both in this country and abroad who may say that the Flag (and even the National Anthem) represents oppression and tyranny?” He responded with, “I see your point… but do you know the history of this movement?” Since we were at a standstill, I encouraged him to have a conversation with me about his concerns at another time, and we could talk more after I read the things he referenced, but now was not the time. He agreed and left.
I do not know why the #BlackLivesMatter sign triggered him. However, I can go through a few points that he attempted to make. First, no one needs a “permit” to gather with friends/ neighbors on public property during daylight hours in Hanover County. Second, after the encounter, I did read through the blacklivesmatter.com website. I did not see anything that suggested the claims the man had made. It annoys me that so many people make false claims and then demand that other people disprove them. That is not how facts and laws work. The accuser must provide the evidence. Even if the website had communist or socialist undertones (which it did not), other thoughts would have arisen: Namely, it is just one website, out of many BLM movements, and the United States already has communist and socialist undertones in its tax structure, policing, public schools and housing, etc. (So what is the “revolution” he is referencing?).
I dug deeper and watched some clips from activists from the past. I watched many of James Baldwin’s presentations. An interesting one is a conversation he has with a Yale professor who claimed that in 1969 the conditions of Black and Brown people were the same as White people. I read about many violent acts that were inflicted upon people of color. I did the best that I could to understand all sides of what the #BlackLivesMatter movement means. I concluded that when black lives matter, all lives matter.
I am not going to defend my full support for #BlackLivesMatter. I acknowledge that all lives matter. No one needs that reminder; we need to be reminded that the values which are supposed to be “self-evident… all men are created equal” includes LGBTQ+, foreign residents, American citizens, healthy, sick, rich, poor, women, men, et al. That reminder starts with #BLM.
Furthermore, I am not going to allow someone to dictate to me what my beliefs mean to me. The fact is Black Lives Matter too. And, until we come together as a nation recognizing the significant contributions that Africans have made to the growth of America (North, South, and Central), “all lives matter” or “blue lives matter” will not equate to “all men are created equal” as expressed in the Declaration of Independence. We must right the wrongs of Jim Crowe laws, redlining, incarceration and the many other oppression tactics that make people feel unsafe growing up Black.
Supporting Black and Brown lives does not mean that I or anyone else is anti-White or anti-Police or anti-whatever. My birth father is Black, and my mother is White. But, I grew up in a White household after my step-father adopted me when I was six-years-old (My birth father gave up his parental rights to me). I can relate to the words of young Barrack Obama. Growing up White is very different from growing up Black. But it shouldn’t be this way. It is not that we should stop seeing color. Instead, we must embrace the many colors with which our nation has been blessed.
Finally, no one has a “right” to hijack the show. When I spend money to see a comedian, I am not there to hear a heckler or listen to other people talk while the performance is underway. The heckler is not the show, the comedian is. When I go to the movies, I expect people to be silent because I did not pay to listen to them. Thus, when I attended the Black Lives Matter Community event, organized by Noah Peterson, I was there to hear, feel, and understand the Black and Brown experiences. I was not there to listen to the counter-argument to #BlackLivesMatter. I was there and will continue to be there in support of the community, which I love.
Dr. Daniel W. McGraw is the chairman of the Hanover County Democratic Committee
- Parent Category: About HDC
MY TWO CENTS: CREATING OUR 'NEW NORMAL'
By Dr. Clara James Scott
I know you have heard or said it: “I can’t wait to get back to normal.” News flash: Things will never get back to normal. We will adapt to a new normal-pretty much like how life changed after 9/11.
Yes, these are stressful and anxious times as we juggle four (avoidable) major GLOBAL crises: racial and social justice protests, COVID-19 pandemic, the economy and the political climate.
The consciousness of racial and gender acceptance is at an all-time high. First, let’s talk about race relations because I believe it is the basis of many other problems. The public killing of George Floyd has confirmed what we as Black people have been saying forever. The systemic and institutional racism has “had its knee on the neck” of and suffocating Black lives since legal slavery (1619–1865) until today within the criminal justice system.
Two hundred forty-six (246) years of slavery built this country from the free labor in cotton fields to the architectural designs of buildings and inventions. In addition, Black people paid with the agony of brutal beatings, mutilations, rapes, separation of children and adults and ultimately death. In 1865, more than 10 million slaves were freed with no resources, creating a pipeline of plantations to prisons.
In spite of this hardship, during Reconstruction (1865-1877), Black people owned successful businesses and were elected to local, state and federal offices. The gains of Reconstruction were erased with ignorance that created fear by stereotyping Black people as stealing jobs from low-income whites, as animals and as rapists of white women.
With the birth of the Jim Crow era, many successful Black-owned businesses and towns like Rosewood, Fla., and Tulsa, Okla., were burned. Black people were lynched and whites received postcards with pictures of lynching to celebrate. I encourage you to research the term “Picnic”. Not only do we need to be educated about the contributions and mistreatment of black culture, but all cultures.
As for Black people, in spite of the countless acts of wrongness, many including myself have persevered and became successful members of society and accept all people. As Black people, we are exhausted with having to justify our existence. It doesn’t matter how many degrees you earn or whatever we accomplish in life; it is never enough to prevent us or our children from being subjected to racial slurs, denial to employment and promotions, playing time on teams and ultimately police harassment and brutality.
Children are not born hating or fearing others; it is a taught behavior.
Donald Trump and his fan base were taught to dislike others. He is in office as a backlash for having our first elected Black president. Because he does not like President Obama and his administration, he did not accept the playbook on how to prevent and handle a pandemic. This COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of loved ones. I hope people “REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER.”
The economy was doing well before COVID-19 as a result of things President Obama put in place. It will take a decade to recover what could have been avoided. Low-income individuals and people of color will be more negatively impacted than any group. My hope is that we realized that all races (Black people, Russians, Italians, Asians, Mexicans) of people commit crimes to feed their family even though the media only portrays a “thug” as a Black person. Many times, people are forced into survival mode because of systemic racism, like being mistreated in school and dropping out.
Our political climate is so toxic; everything is political. Being treated as a human being should not be political. Providing leadership during a pandemic should not be political. Providing health care and jobs should not be political. Wearing or not wearing a mask should not be political. “REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER.”
I would be remiss without acknowledging the dedication of the young people who are peacefully protesting and others who are writing letters/emails, joining organizations, making calls and having conversations. I personally need you to know how much I need you RIGHT NOW because like so many, I’m tired of fighting. Thank you for picking up the baton.
I look forward to you and your peers VOTING OUT the current arrogant and “knee on the neck” mentality Board of Supervisors that continues to tell their appointed school board member to vote to keep the names of those who committed treason on OUR schools.
It is an exciting time to be on the side of justice. I consider it an honor to share my two cents worth with you my fellow democrats. Now, let’s get to work! There is much to do before November 3. And whereas, I am tired, I’m determined to lock arms with you and fight until the end.
Remember hate is learned behavior!
Dr. Clara James Scott is a retired school administrator, educational consultant and speaker.
- Parent Category: About HDC
THEY DEFINE AND DEFEAT, SO WE MUST DEFEND
By Ashley Hall
Republicans define their opponents with a pinch of truth and a ton of lies to defeat them. But we can combat that.
The GOP playbook: Define, defeat. John Kerry: Truth — he was in the military and received many medals of honor. Republicans started a rumor that he was undeserving of his medals and somehow defined him as a kind of Benedict Arnold. And it worked.
Define, defeat. Hillary Clinton: Truth — she was a First Lady, a secretary of state, a U.S. senator. Republicans started a rumor that she was a underhanded witch that put the country in danger by using a private email server. They created such a fervor that FBI Director James Comey felt he needed to make a show out of “investigating a new set of emails.” And he felt he had to do this, I believe, because the country demanded it, Republicans and Democrats alike.
I remember hearing very, very little defense at the time for John Kerry, and even less for Clinton. And I feel one strong way of showing a united front is by not acknowledging every asinine thing that comes up about our candidates.
Let’s be real here. We are going to have to be prepared to advocate for and defend Biden. He’s going say poetic things and he’s also going to say doofy things. He will, and we can’t freak out about it. As Democrats, if we are looking for every excuse to call out Biden on the internet, in public or even among friends, then we can say hello to a second term of Trump.
Biden is a great candidate and we should say so every day. This is a fight, and we better believe the Republicans are going to say that Joe Biden caused the Challenger to explode and all sorts of other ridiculous nonsense. The news is going to cover it.
But we can’t take the bait. We have to defend him and we have to fight for him, because this is a battle we absolutely cannot lose.
Ashley Hall is director of outreach for HDC
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