Virginia has shifted from a red state to a purple state and to now a blue state in a matter of twenty years. With that shift came the first fully united Democratic state government for Virginians in decades. As expected, they have passed gun control measures, measures on healthcare, and other bills you might expect from a Democratic government. One issue that they have not yet tackled in full yet is gerrymandering. With how the GOP gerrymandered the state, it was assumed that gerrymandering would be dealt with. Instead, the voters of Virginia will now deal with it themselves, as they will vote on Amendment 1 this November.
What is Amendment 1?
Amendment 1 is the anti-gerrymandering amendment on the ballot for Virginia voters this year. This amendment would set up an independent commission to create state and congressional maps for Virginia. The commission would be made up of eight state legislators and eight citizens of the state of Virginia. The parties would get to place four of their own legislators on the commission, while the eight citizens would be selected by a panel of retired judges.
If passed, the new maps for Virginia in either 2021 or 2022, depending on the status of the Census, would be drawn by this commission. This would put Virginia in a group of a couple of states that will be using independent commissions for the next cycle. States such as California, Arizona, and Michigan will all be using commissions to draw their maps. The amendment passing would, in theory, end any threat of gerrymandering in Virginia for the next cycle.
Opposition to the Amendment
There has been heavy opposition to this amendment though, mostly from Democrats. Even though they campaigned on ending gerrymandering to take back the State Assembly in 2019, most Democrats did not support putting the amendment on the ballot. 46 of the 55 Democratic delegates voted against it in the House of Delegates back in early March. Some believe it is because they want to gerrymander themselves, while others believe the amendment disenfranchises minorities.
This has lead to a surprisingly large group of opposition to come out against the amendment. This past week, the Virginia NAACP sent out a statement imploring black voters to vote against the amendment. This has lead to expectations of a close fight, one that will be interesting to watch on November 3rd. With black turnout expected to be high across the country this year too, their votes could prove vital in whether the amendment passes or not.
Why it May End Up Passing
I do see this amendment passing, but not because of just Republican support. In Virginia that no longer works, as shown by the past decade of elections. Instead, it will be those new voters the Democrats started to get in 2016. Voters who might have been moderate Republicans or independents in counties surrounding Richmond and Virginia Beach. Voters who flipped congressional districts two and seven in 2018. Those are the voters that are going to help this amendment pass.
What we know about these voters is quite simple. They are white, well educated (at a college level or better), and are usually women. These are also the type of voters who abhor gerrymandering. They will support almost anything that would end the practice. Not only that, but these are not voters who have always been loyal to the Democratic Party. They have voted for David Brat or Scott Taylor before, or for their local GOP representative or senator. They might have even voted for Donald Trump in 2016. For now, they vote for Democrats, but they despise the practice of gerrymandering.
And they will be the voter that will get this amendment over the hump. All it needs is a majority of the vote to pass. Voters who vote for both Joe Biden and Abigail Spanberger or Elaine Luria may also be the ones who will vote to approve this amendment. It is in their DNA.