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Barf Time: Redistricting Is Done

By Greg L | 26 January 2012 | Virginia Politics, US Congress | 17 Comments

After utterly zero consideration of the enormous flaws of the congressional redistricting map commonly known as “the incumbent protection plan,” Governor McDonnell has signed it into law.  Thank you so much, Mr. Governor and our representatives in the General Assembly, for rolling over on this tragic stupidity so Congressmen can feel more safe and comfortable.

My new district is a perfect demonstration of the flaws in this plan.  I am now in the 1st Congressional District, represented by Congressman Rob Wittman.  While he’s a fine man doing a good job in Congress, his district stretches all the way from Route 66 in Prince William County all the way to the edge of Newport News, looking somewhat like a cubist banana.  While the district didn’t look much better before redistricting, the General Assembly made this even more strangely shaped when it had the opportunity to inject some sanity into Congressional District lines.

Sanity in this case would look like keeping localities intact, keeping districts compact, and as much as possible not splitting localities into multiple districts where their voice gets diluted.  There’s precious little of that sanity in this plan.

The 11th District looks like a three headed Cerberus, carefully gobbling up Reston, Centreville and Woodbridge/Triangle while hugging Alexandria an an attempt to make sure the awful Gerry Connolly has a long and pathetic career misrepresenting Virginia.  The 10th District gets even more strangely shaped in order to gobble up any potentially Republican precincts that weren’t needed to add unnecessary extra political oomph to Rob Wittman.  About the only district that looks somewhat more sane this time is the 8th District, where Jim Moran won’t have to burn up quite as much fossil fuel as he travels his district in search of more Jews to insult.

Strangely shaped districts hurt the elected officials who represent them, regardless of what the careful analysis of data used to construct these shows.  It unnecessarily antagonizes constituents, it makes it harder for activists on the edges of a district to participate in district operations, and it reinforces the idea that politicians are inherently corrupt and care for nothing but their re-election.  As for me, I’m far more inclined to be active in 10th District activities which generally happen in conveniently nearby Loudoun County than accept an invitation to go to Williamsburg so I can have something to do with my own district.

So-called “non-partisan redistricting” will not solve this problem, a completely naive concept that somehow you can remove political interests from something so inherently political by creating a temporary bureaucracy every ten years.  Trying to get the politics out of redistricting is about as likely as trying to get special interest money out of campaign finance by regulating campaign contributions further.  It’s not going to happen.  About the only thing “non-partisan redistricting” would likely do is make sure that the people making the decisions aren’t directly accountable, which is an invitation to make things worse.

Accountability here is the answer.  If you’re not asking direct and pointed questions to your local elected officials about why they supported this gerrymander we will continue to see abuses long into the future.  The only thing that will prevent this sort of abuse are entrenched memories within the minds of elected officials about how they caught hell for this, or perhaps who they saw lose critical support over the issue to the point it impacted their re-election.  Politicians respond to anger directed at them.  The response you get from them is proportional to the amount of heat they feel.

Alternatively, you can sit on the couch and do nothing.  When this happens again in ten years and you end up in a district that includes Tazwell County, you’ll only have yourself to blame.  It’s your choice.



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17 Comments

  1. charles said on 26 Jan 2012 at 12:09 am:
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    But on the good side, I’m no longer represented by Gerry Connally.

    And it’s not like my state districts make any sense either.

    I now have a completely different set of representatives than I had last year.

  2. Loudoun Insider said on 26 Jan 2012 at 12:25 am:
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    Redistricting in this country has become a cruel joke. Non-partisan committees are the only real answer, you just cannot trust politicians with this stuff. The districts put together earlier by those college student groups were much much better than this garbage.

  3. Greg L said on 26 Jan 2012 at 12:43 am:
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    A “non-partisan committee” appointed by partisan elected officials. Anything binding is going to be co-opted by political interests faster than you can say “boo.” That’s awfully naive.

    Voters beating up elected officials for bad decisions is the only proven way to ensure better performance.

  4. Riley said on 26 Jan 2012 at 10:06 am:
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    Meanwhile, I’ve been moved out of the 1st and into the 11th. This is just plain insane. My southern PWC precinct (it still borders the 1st Dist. that it was a part of for the past 10 years) is now in the same district as Tysons Corner, Reston and Wolf Trap. I’ll miss having Wittman as my Rep. and now I’ll have to work on helping Chris Perkins bump off Connolly in a district made 5 points more Dem by redistricting.

    The GOP own everything in Richmond and they had 2 months to come up with a different plan that would have made more sense and given us an even better shot at a 9-2 majority instead of trying to solidify an 8-3 one.

  5. Riley said on 26 Jan 2012 at 10:07 am:
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    Greg, at least you’re not a few miles away in Fauquier County which is now in the 5th Dist. and stretches all the way down to Danville and the NC border.

  6. James Young said on 26 Jan 2012 at 10:20 am:
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    Where Riley lost, I won. I was moved from Connelly’s to Wittman’s.

    ‘Course, Wittman managed to lost the PWC portion of his district to Crystal Ball!

  7. Loudoun Insider said on 26 Jan 2012 at 11:06 am:
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    I know there are limitations, but the students proved that a non-partisan group can do a great job. Having the redistricting committee members appointed by the judiciary could help mitigate some of the politics.

    The problem with leaving it to the politicians is that they will be blatantly political, primarily because not enough people pay attention and/or give a damn about any of this. They know they can be ridiculously partisan and still get re-elected after most of the outrage subsides. I just don’t see voter apathy turning around enough to actually have measurable consequences over something as arcane as redistricting.

  8. Loudoun Insider said on 26 Jan 2012 at 11:15 am:
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    I went looking for the student map, but it looks like the website they had up is no longer active. Here’s a blog post with a sample map from the Bipartisan Advisory Committee, absolutely much better than the monstrosity that passed.

    http://thewonksalon.com/archives/3171

  9. Jack said on 27 Jan 2012 at 7:59 am:
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    Just get rid of the districts and have at-large voting.

  10. Peter Sperry said on 27 Jan 2012 at 9:42 am:
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    I think the new maps are horrible. I am also pissed that this is the 3rd redistricting in a row that NOVA has been drawn into contortion like districts in order to keep Vienna in the 10th District. I like Frank Wolf. Frank Wolf has been a great Congressman. Frank Wolf should have moved to Leesburg 25 years ago. How long will we keep drawing half assed maps in order to keep Frank Wolf in the nice safe 10th district?

  11. Simon Oliver Lockwood said on 27 Jan 2012 at 3:08 pm:
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    Of course the students could do a nice, fair, job because they knew that there was no way their map would ever become reality. Thus they could concentrate on letting the chips fall as they would with no consequences. Whoever is drawing the real map knows that real political consequences will ensue, and will be motivated to make those consequences come out correctly.

  12. Anonymous said on 27 Jan 2012 at 6:02 pm:
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    Looks like our traffic problems will fall on deaf ears for ten years! Greg, you ought to be happy since the idea of a district in northern virginia becomeing a democratic one is uterly imposable! Yea, some clout we have! lol

  13. The Real Disgusted said on 28 Jan 2012 at 7:57 am:
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    This redistricting is a product of the very politicians you support, Greg! Redistricting is nothing but a power grab by the majority, in this case your conservative buddies running the GA! What did you want them to do? Redraw the lines so the “libitards” can take control? C’mon Man!!! (NFL reference you probably don’t understand) Take your Boy Scout uniform off and embrace the conservative consolidation you’ve worked so hard to bring about.

  14. steve said on 28 Jan 2012 at 9:18 am:
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    Take a look at what happened with California’s recent “non-partisan” redistricting - the committee was so non-partisan it didn’t realize the entire process was being gamed by astroturf groups on the left.

    A better model is Iowa, which akin to the BRAC process - the Legislature gets to approve, but only from 3 choices developed using 4 specific criteria - population equality, contiguity, unity with underlying jurisdictions (i.e. no splitting counties into 3 districts) and compactness.

    http://archive.fairvote.org/redistricting/reports/remanual/ia.htm

  15. Hirons said on 30 Jan 2012 at 8:42 am:
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    Greg and Jim Young - welcome to America’s 1st District!

    Rob Wittman is a fine Congressman! I think PWC will be pleased with him representing them. The biggest danger in this crazy district is to have a Congressman who you will never see. I don’t think that will be the case with Rob. The man has the energy of the energizer bunny and he’ll be hitting as many things as he can in PWC.

    He did lose PWC precincts to Ball in the last election, but let’s face it it’d lose those precincts to any Dem in any year. The area he gained in PWC will certainly not see him lose the county to any Dem., ever again.

  16. Wineplz said on 1 Feb 2012 at 11:59 am:
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    Okay…so I’m not crazy in thinking that this is now the third time in the past few years that I’ve been shuffled around in districts even though I haven’t moved. I used to be the 13th…then the 11th, and now I’m in the 1st, too. Guess I’m glad to no longer have Gerry Connolly, but like you, Greg, it’s a bit disheartening to be lumped in with folks in the Tidewater area, and I would think they’d feel similarly. While we may have some similar needs (traffic comes to mind), it does seem odd to lump Gainesville/Bristow area with that of Williamsburg and Yorktown.

  17. The_REAL_Elvis said on 18 Feb 2012 at 6:59 pm:
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    speaking of barf….where is Hilda Barf these days? retired after jacking up woodbridge and passing the torch to her little buddy (and jack it up even more) hope she’s satisfied with all the illegals living there….it’s a pigsty

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