Even Some Republicans Souring To Sleazy Virginia Gerrymander Tactic


If you’re unfamiliar with this debacle so far, my colleagues have covered the what and the why extremely well. In a nutshell:

  • Virginia Republicans had a case of epic butt-hurt after Obama took the state in November (to say nothing of yet another Democratic Senator-Elect in the form of former governor Tim Kaine).
  • As butt-hurt Republicans are known to do, they hatched a nefarious scheme to rejigger the states electoral votes so districts would be awarded on an individual basis, giving the sparsely populated Western (and Republican) regions a great deal more weight against the heavily populated Northern and Southeastern (and largely Democratic) regions.
  • The Virginia Senate is locked in a perpetual 20-20 tie, with the Republican Lt. Governor casting the tie-breaking votes. When it came to Gerrymandering, though, he was vocally opposed and indicated he’d never vote in favor of such nonsense.
  • Rather than admit defeat, the GOP waited until a Democratic Senator was out of town in order to skew their votes. In this case, it happened to be one of the state’s foremost civil rights icons who only left to go to the second inauguration of President Obama. Classy move.
  • The GOP rams the bill through the Senate, Democrats unable to stop it since they were down a man. The bill in question had been in a “continuation” cycle for some time to that point, each day getting handed off to the next. Until the GOP realized the Democrats were down a man, there was no indication that it would come to a vote soon, much less on that day in particular.

So, now, flush with their victory in the Senate and facing a Governor who condemned the dirty tricks but refuses to come out in opposition to the bill itself, there were few road blocks facing Virginia Republicans. Only administrative hurdles in the Republican house were truly a threat … until at least a few of the Old Dominion’s Republicans remembered that they have souls. As reported here, two prominent Republicans, State Senators, Jill Vogel and Ralph Smith, have now come out against that plan (confusing, I know). Regardless, because of the back-and-forth nature of legislation in a two-chamber legislature, the bill will have to be passed, reconciled, passed, spit-shined, etc., multiple ways until both chambers have passed identical versions, which can then be sent to the Governor’s desk. BECAUSE IT’S DEMOCRACY, that’s why. Regardless, Smith in particular just happens to sit on the Senate’s Privileges and Elections committee, where his lack of support could, thankfully, have the potential to kill the bill entirely. Even if that doesn’t do it, reports are beginning to surface that say all the national bad attention is starting to make the House Republicans squirm in their seats and many may not have the stomach to go forward with the plan.

Hopefully that’s the case and Virginia Republicans will come to the realization that what they’re attempting is profoundly unpopular and blatantly, aggressively, transparent. It ignores the fundamental tenets of democracy, giving an over-important voice to low-density, rural areas and lessening the impact of high-density, urban ones. Scenarios where a presidential candidate in Virginia won the popular vote by a half-million votes or more, but received fewer electoral college votes, would be virtually guaranteed, giving the state’s overwhelming Republican rural population an incredibly oversized seat at the table. For proof, take a look at the state’s population density versus the results of the 2012 presidential election.

VA pop densityVirginia_presidential_election_results_2012.svg

 No surprises there, right?

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