| Editorial | Roanoke Times |
Virginia’s journey toward having some of the least partisan electoral maps in the nation rolled along an extremely bumpy road.
However, the fact that the maps exist at all remains a laudable miracle, and the nonpartisan nonprofit formerly known as OneVirginia2021 deserves no small share of the credit. Led by the late Charlottesville attorney Leigh Middleditch, OneVirginia2021 began campaigning in 2013 to slay the gerrymander monster in Virginia, so that when new districts were drawn in response to 2020 census data, the results would be free of political manipulation.
It’s something that Virginia localities ought to seriously consider for their county and city elections.
Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for voting rights organization Common Cause, aptly described how Virginia snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Because “Virginia has one of the harder methods of amending your constitution in order to achieve some of these reforms,” the compromise arrived at to address gerrymandering remained intensely partisan, with mapmaking charged to a committee of eight Democrats and eight Republicans.
In practice, the committee proved unable to agree on anything — yet the built-in fail safe worked, with the task of drawing the maps falling to the Supreme Court of Virginia. “The courts looked at the maps, and they were able to look at it with a fair and impartial lens,” Feng said.
Having notched a hard-fought victory, OneVirginia2021 has opted to rebrand and refocus. Tuesday, the nonprofit unveiled a new name, UpVote Virginia, and a new mission, advocating for the adoption of ranked choice voting in Virginia elections.
Advocates for ranked choice voting assert that it demands that candidates more fully engage with communities and their needs rather than pander to hyper-partisan pluralities of voters.
Even though the 2020 law that paved the way for local governments to make use of ranked choice voting was passed while Democrats held the governor’s office and both General Assembly houses, the support for this voting method crosses the aisle.
“It’s something that Virginia localities ought to seriously consider for their county and city elections,” said former U.S. Senator George Allen, a Republican who also served as Virginia’s governor. “Rank choice voting makes it so that elected officials are truly representative of the will of the majority of the voters.”
It could be that UpVote Virginia will want to pursue further refinement of the gerrymandering reforms as the 2030 Census approaches, but in the meantime the promotion of ranked choice voting is a worthy pursuit.