Virginia GOP ‘suffering voter-suppression envy’
8/26/2021, 6 p.m.
Re Article “Who are we?” and editorial “Redistricting,” Free Press Aug. 19-21 edition:
In the front page article, “Who are we?” Jeremy M. Lazarus cogently analyzed the changes in Richmond’s demographic makeup revealed by the 2020 Census.
However, the most immediate impact of the census will be the use of it for legislative redistricting. Virginia’s voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum calling for redistricting by commission from their desire for fairly drawn legislative boundaries that will ensure an equal voice to every citizen. Recent strides in assuring equitable access to the ballot box — early voting, no-excuse absentee ballots — make the current impasse at the redistricting commission doubly disappointing.
That the commission is at loggerheads is unsurprising, however. A facile interpretation attributes the deadlock to polarized American politics and holds Democrats and Republicans equally culpable. The facts belie this notion.
The University of Southern California has found that ger- rymandering facilitated minority rule by the GOP in Virginia after the 2017 election. Democratic candidates garnered far more votes statewide, yet did not take power until the margins in the 2019 election overcame the gerrymander.
Nevertheless, Republicans retain representation disproportionate to votes received. The existing maps make Virginia the nation’s most gerrymandered state, despite a 2018 federal court order to redraw racially dubious boundaries. The salient question — Who benefits if new maps conform closely to the old ones? — is not difficult to answer.
A second question—Which party negotiates in better faith? — is readily answered by posing queries that sadly have become rhetorical. Which party evinces greater reservations regarding the expressed will of voters? Which party in Virginia eschews primaries in favor of activist-dominated conventions? Which party is conducting a Kafkaesque-“audit” of Arizona’s 2020 election results? Which party is pushing legislation to curtail
access to the ballot box? Which party has convinced many adherents that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent and that the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was either a tourist jaunt or a project of leftist provocateurs? In which party does 67 percent of its supporters believe that voting is a privilege, not a right?
One must wonder whether Virginia’s GOP is suffering voter-suppression envy. The Republican Party’s 2010 REDMAP project facilitated undemocratic gerrymandering of many GOP-controlled states, gerrymandering whose racist assumptions suffuse the computer hard drives of the late Thomas Hofeller, the party’s redistricting guru. Debarred by its minority position from robust participation in the GOP’s Rightline 2020 initiative — effectively REDMAP 2.0 — Virginia’s GOP seems intent on throwing redistricting to the courts in hopes of preserving something near the status quo. This would circumvent the will of the Commonwealth’s voters.
The Virginia GOP is clearly angst ridden. As the saying goes, when someone is accustomed to privilege — here the privilege of disproportionate influence from the minority — then the prospect of equality must indeed seem oppressive.