02 February 2017
About 100 Lake Monticello Newcomers and Old Friends members heard about the scourge of gerrymandering Sunday (Jan. 29) at a meeting at the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Department.
It’s an issue with unusual bipartisan support that has far-reaching effects on who represents the people, said Brian Cannon, executive director of One Virginia 2021, a group dedicated to changing gerrymandering.
Gerrymandering is the deliberate manipulation of legislative district boundaries for political power – according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and One Virginia 2021.
Whatever party is in power in a state when districts are redrawn every 10 years will legally draw those lines to maximize its base of support, Cannon said.
One need not go far to see an example: the 22nd Senate District of Virginia, to which Fluvanna belongs. The district snakes through six counties and includes parts of Lynchburg and Louisa County. It is a largely Republican district and the Republican candidate Mark Peake won the Jan. 10 special election.Cannon showed a map of the 17th Senate District of Virginia to Fluvanna’s north that includes Orange, parts of Spotsylvania, Culpeper and Fredericksburg. Edd Houck (D-Spotsylvania) represented the district when boundaries were redrawn in 2011. He heard rumors that a Republican named Bryce Reeves was going to run against him, so in redrawing the boundaries in 2011, the portion in the top right of the map, where Reeves lived, was cut out of the district, making him ineligible to run, Cannon said.
“The problem was – they got the wrong Reeves family,” he said.
Reeves beat Houck in the Nov. 8, 2011 general election.
Gerrymandering results in fewer choices for voters, which takes the power from individuals and keeps it in whatever party happens to be in power at the time of redistricting, Cannon said.
“Competitive elections are almost extinct,” Cannon said. “We [Virginia] had one competitive district in 2016. Nationwide there were only 36 competitive districts out of 435 seats.”
Redrawing lines based on a person’s race is illegal, but basing it on party is not, he said.
One Virginia 2021 wants to change that. They are lobbying to also make it illegal to redistrict based on political affiliation.
One of the founders of the Sorenson Institute, Lee Middleditch, formed One Virginia 2021 three years ago to educate the public about gerrymandering and to try and bring bipartisan support to change the practice, said Joe Shaver, Fluvanna County’s representative for the group.
“It’s a problem that needs a bipartisan solution,” Shaver said. “We reside in the cradle of democracy. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams – they had a vision and that vision has been blurred. When the main goal for a politician is to preserve their incumbency, they no longer have to listen to the people and that’s the end of democracy.”
The solution, according to the group is: “By the deadline of 2021, when all maps will be signed into law, we are advocating for an amendment to the Virginia Constitution establishing an impartial commission – independent of the General Assembly – to draw legislative district lines. The commission would use objective, nonpartisan criteria, invite public participation and be fully transparent.”
Cannon asked for support in the way of:
- Signing a petition to alert legislators of the growing number of constituents supporting redistricting reform;
- Donating at OneVirginia2021.org or by mail;
- Following the group on Facebook and Twitter;
- Inviting a speaker to a community organization; and
- Helping a local government or civic organization pass a resolution found at OneVirginia2021.org.
For more information, contact Brian Cannon by email at
or by phone at 804-240-9933.