Update: The Virginia House cleared the measure Friday night, 54 to 46, assuring a statewide referendum vote in November.
While the world of democracy reform holds its collective breath about Virginia, which is just one day from a do-or-don't deadline for ending partisan gerrymandering, campaigns to combat such behavior got underway this week in two more states.
The way political district boundaries get drawn has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, with a steadily expanding campaign to give the task to independent outsiders rather than politicians interested only in preserving their own power. This spring's census, which will provide the population numbers mapmakers must use, has magnified the issue yet again.
Rumors spread last fall about Census impersonators carrying fraudulent IDs who were knocking on doors and robbing people in their homes.
Fear circulated on Twitter. Neighborhood watch groups posted warnings on Facebook. Local TV stations aired stories on how to protect yourself when a stranger shows up to your house.
The only problem? It was baloney. But the government is combating such scams with an aggressiveness underscoring how seriously it takes the nation's only moment of mandatory civic responsibility.
After a year of anticipation and consternation, Virginians now appear almost certain to be asked to vote this fall on turning legislative mapmaking over to more outsiders instead of the partisans whose political fortunes depend on the lines.
The state House is on course to vote before its scheduled adjournment Saturday on a proposal to turn redistricting over to an independent commission next year, when the lines for the General Assembly and 11 congressional districts will be repositioned for a decade in light of this year's census.
Passage would put the proposed amendment to the state Constitution on the November ballot, where it would be favored to pass — the biggest potential victory this year for those who say partisan gerrymandering is one of American democracy's biggest problems.
Organizer: Nonprofit VOTE
The 2020 Census is right around the corner for most of us and counting of remote communities has already begun. How are you ensuring that your clients and community are fully counted? Participation in the census is vital to ensure that federal funding is allocated where it is most needed, but the Census can seem confusing and doesn't come around very often. An effective messaging campaign can make the difference between being counted and being left out... for the next 10 years.
Join us as we feature speakers from two excellent Census messaging campaigns. Jeri Green from National Urban League will share with us resources and news from the Make Black Count campaign. From NALEO Educational Fund, Adan Chavez, Deputy Director of National Census Program for their ¡Hágase Contar! campaign will also be on hand to talk about their work, trainings, and other activations.