Monday, February 2, 2009

Deeds' Redistricting Bill Gets Unanimous Senate Support

The Star City Harbinger has a good snippet today about Creigh Deeds' perennial fight to rationalize Virginia's redistricting system:

For the last seven years, State Senator Creigh Deeds has gone to bat for a non-partisan redistricting proposal; today’s unanimous vote in the Virginia State Senate makes it three consecutive years that proposal has received support from a bi-partisan coalition in the Virginia Senate [See: Richmond Sunlight, SB 926, 2009].

It isn’t sexy.  It isn’t soundbite worthy. But it is the key to ensuring political competition and bipartisanship in a state government nearly paralyzed with gridlock.  Deeds says,

“This important reform can change the way we do business in state government by putting an end to the bitter partisanship that keeps us from moving Virginia forward. With the next redistricting just around the corner, my proposal ensures that the electorate chooses their elected leaders; not the other way around.”

The operative word here is non-partisan. A good example of how this might work would be districting by a panel of retired judges--since they spent their careers striving for neutrality and no longer have a stake in the system, they should be pretty fair and impartial. Hopefully this would produce as many competitive districts as possible, as opposed to bipartisan redistricting, which only produces equal numbers of safe districts through wheeling and dealing.

This may be a case where Deeds' Senate seat could pay dividends, and based on the fact that his campaign issued a press release about it, they seem to be hoping so. If it manages to pass the House (a big "if" given the potential for GOP stonewalling--there's a reason he's tried this seven times) Creigh can point to this as a concrete achievement while his opponents are gallivanting about the state. Of course, it will get no media play, and the average voter won't care. The only people who are paying attention are partisan primary voters--many of whom may not be thrilled about nonpartisan districting, given the current balance in our House delegation.

But having said that, I really have to applaud Sen. Deeds for consistently pushing for this badly-needed reform. Gerrymandering is a disgrace to democracy no matter which side practices it, and as Deeds says, the people should pick their representatives--not the other way around.

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