Pointless Special Session

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, August 29, 2018

This Friday the Governor has called the General Assembly into Special Session with the sole purpose of redistricting the House of Delegates. There is no reason to do this other than politics.

Why do I say this is a pointless waste of money? First, a federal court has ordered that the House redistrict this fall. Either way, no election could occur until the November 2019 elections. Acting this month, next month or the month after are all the same. It only makes it appear the Governor cares about how the districts are shaped. This is a far cry from his past actions. During the last redistricting, the Governor was a state senator. He voted to approve the House of Delegates redistricting. Now he claims that plan was racially motivated. Yet, it passed the House and Senate with broad support from most every member of the General Assembly.

The Governor professes that he wants to improve the re-districting process to eliminate some of the strange lines that have been drawn by both the Democrats and Republicans in the past. His voting record differs. He voted in lockstep to support the Democrat drafted legislation affecting the Senate which barely passed. If one looks at the way the Senate lines were drawn, one would see that it was drawn just as absurdly as the House. This year, he had the chance to make the system purer, however, he chose to veto that bill. That bill would have required district lines run more closely to county and city lines whenever possible. Additionally, he blocked legislation that would have avoided split districts just as Governor McAuliffe did. This creates a needless expense for local government. In the 15th Senate District alone, there are more than two dozen split precincts which the counties have had to staff with extra personnel. Some of these precincts deal with just a handful of voters. For the last three years we have tried to make corrections with no support from the Governor.

Another reason this special session is of no value is that there is a consensus that there is no chance that anything will pass out of the House and come to the Senate for a vote and that the Governor would agree to sign.

The House has asked the Supreme Court to postpone their deadline until the Supreme Court can review the lower court’s action. This seems a reasonable request. Reasonable because, just days before the Federal District deadline order, the Supreme Court chose to not hear two such cases, one Democrat from Maryland and one Republican from Wisconsin. Their conclusion was that redrawing redistricting lines was a responsibility of state legislators, not courts. In my humble opinion this is as it should be. Each time Virginia draws new lines we are very careful that we follow federal justice department guidelines that are designed to prevent any reduction in the number of minorities serving in the General Assembly. Now the courts want to penalize if we add too many minorities in a district intentionally or unintentionally.

All of this is silly. If we want a fair redistricting, this can be accomplished easily. Start in one county and move across the state. Each county would, if possible, be kept whole. To reach needed equal representation, additional counties would be added one ZIP code at a time until the proper size is achieved.

Frank Ruff represents Lunenburg in the state Senate. His email address is Sen.Ruff@ verizon.net.