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Then Just Who The Hell Is My Congressman?

By Greg L | 30 May 2012 | Virginia Politics, US Congress | 7 Comments

Like quite a few other Virginians, I recently got my new voter identification card in the mail (no, not the one Bob McDonnell will be sending out again) because due to redistricting I’m being moved into the 1st District from the 10th District.  I always liked pulling the lever for Frank Wolf and found him and his staff truly wonderful to deal with, but in January Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law the legislation that enacted these new (rather insane, I might add) district lines.  So long, Frank.  I’ll genuinely miss having you as my congressman, and appreciate all your hard work for me and my neighbors.

So I’ve been a delegate to the 1st District Convention and helped roust the awful district chairman there who decided that the district convention should be, of all places, in Glouchester.  Four hours and 155 miles later I get to that run-down, cramped elementary school in the middle of nowhere to take out some trash, but I’m now a 1st District veteran.  But hold on, I’m not a constituent in the 1st District.  Really.

Despite what Virginia law says, and Virginia law is pretty authoritative in this regard since states control their own redistricting, according to the US House of Representatives I am still in Virginia’s Tenth District until the next congress is sworn in in January of 2013.  Apparently House rules don’t even allow Rob Wittman, who I will be casting a vote for on November 6th, to even initiate any contact with me at all using any government resources until the next congress is sworn in.  No “welcome to your new district, here’s how you can contact me” note.  No letter explaining redistricting and how it impacts me.  Heck, as I recently found out, the IT department of the House of Representatives will actually block any effort I may make to contact Rob Wittman’s office using his website on house.gov.  How utterly ridiculous.

This is kind of like being one of those unfortunate “stateless persons” who have no nationality and are berift of any protection or support of a national government.  Now I have no doubt that Frank Wolf’s office would be more than happy to help me with any requests that I might have, but he’s not my congressman.  At least that’s what Virginia law says, and I can’t vote for the guy anymore.

Redistricting isn’t going to be a completely smooth and easy process, regardless of the completely messed up, brain-dead, utterly ridiculous process that ended up lumping me into a district that stretches nearly to Norfolk just so that scurrilous reprobate Gerry Connolly will have a safe seat in the 11th District.  There’s going to be a period of transition, and I get that.  It doesn’t have to last a whole danged year, with tens of thousands of people like me sitting in some sort of drawn-out weird limbo where we’re kinda in one district according to state law, but really in another district according to the rules of the House of Representatives, that for some unfathomable reason actually trumps enacted law.

Yes, these are congressional ethics rules, the kind that supposed to make people like Anthony Weiner act like a gentleman.  You can’t have an incumbent congressman sending franked mail or using House resources to contact people who will be his constituents, because it might somehow disadvantage his opponent in an election.  Yeah, that’s the concern here, really.  No congressman is allowed by rule to tell people in the district that is electing a congressman that they’re part of a different district and who to contact if they need assistance, or have questions.  That’s how good government supposedly works, folks.  Let’s keep the electorate in the dark.  It’s good for democracy.

Right about this time I’d inject a tired joke here about how many congressmen does it take to screw in a light bulb, but we’d never get to the process because there’d be a raft of regulations and rules to wade through well before we got to actually doing anything mildly productive.  We’d have to figure out what district the socket was in, whether it would be an ethics violation for any parties to perform any useful service in that district, and of course determine whether the socket, bulb, structural electrical systems, ladders, and safety protections met the appropriate environmental and OSHA guidelines, as well as ensure that the person doing the work was a qualified disadvantaged minority, provided with the required workplace sensitivity training courses, and possessing documentation that demonstrates he/she/it has full insurance coverage.  Just for starters.

This system has been so overburdened with ridiculous and useless rules and regulations that nothing productive can be accomplished.  Now that it’s redistricting season, all of us get a little taste of what those stupid rules are and what effect they have.  Do voters really need to be abused like this?  Heck, does anyone need to be abused like this?

So if you have the opportunity to contact a congressman — any of them — without running afoul of House ethics rules, you might want to let them know how fun it is for you when your ability to contact the federal representative who serves the district you live in under state law isn’t allowed to talk to you for all practical purposes.  There’s probably a volume or two of rules and regulations they could repeal while they’re at it before all the light bulbs on Capitol Hill go dark.  It would make their lives, and ours, much easier.

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  1. anon said on 31 May 2012 at 5:39 am:
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    Use a valid 1st District zip code until they finally get yours into the system to get around the restriction. I run into administrative issues like this all the time with systems. There’s usually a workaround. If you did a workaround and got a message to Wittman, do you think he would give you the same bureaucratic response? If he did, you are going to have bigger problems with him than the House redistricting rules.

  2. ... said on 31 May 2012 at 10:49 am:
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    22408 is a valid 1st district zip code.

  3. Riley said on 31 May 2012 at 3:39 pm:
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    I have the opposite problem. I’m going from the 1st into the 11th. Ugh…

    You’ll enjoy having Rob Wittman as your Congressman. He is very accessible and gets to know his constituents quickly. I think you will find your experiences with him will be even better than what you have now with Wolf.

  4. Simon Oliver Lockwood said on 31 May 2012 at 8:20 pm:
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    Your congressman will remain Frank Wolf until 11:59 AM, January 3, 2013. That is when his term he was elected to in 2010 expires.

    Under Virginia law you are in the 1st District for purposes of electing your representative to the 113th Congress. Under the United States Constitution, your representative in the 112th Congress is the person who was elected in your district in 2010.

  5. Anonymous said on 3 Jun 2012 at 2:02 pm:
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    So we cant receive voteing information from him for the election? What a fucking joke.

  6. Greg L said on 3 Jun 2012 at 2:22 pm:
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    From the campaign, yes. From the congressional office, no.

  7. Military Veteran said on 8 Jun 2012 at 10:58 am:
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    Just got off the phone with Congressman Wolf’s Herndon Office. I have a similar problem in that I’m in greasy Gerry Connolly’s 11th CD but now redistricting places me in the 10th CD. As Simon Oliver Lockwood described above, that is the official circumstance. Apparently “House Rules” prevent the official Member’s website from accepting web-based email from residents outside the pre-redistricting jurisdictions. Thus, when you put in your nine-digit ZIP code and your new congressman’s website rejects it - blame the “House Rules.”

    The best thing to do is to contact the new Congressman’s office by phone and ask for an alternative email address.

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