Monday’s meeting in Virginia offered an extreme example of the dysfunction. Commissioners argued over whether any of the Democratic co-chairs had officially resigned – she said no – and whether she could reinstate herself.
“You are in this catch-22: you are asking people to come together and overcome the partisan divide to end gerrymandering, but because of gerrymandering in the past you might have an insurmountable partisan divide,” said Liz White, executive director of One Virginia 2021, the group that supported the Virginia poll initiative.
But some Democrats still defend any effort to bring the process forward.
“Committees are certainly better than the political and partisan process – if only for some other reason than the transparency of what is going on. Even if things go wrong, at least you know what’s going on, ”said Kelly Ward Burton, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, the group founded by former Attorney General Eric Holder. “On the net, you get fairer commission charts.”
On the GOP side, many still maintain that giving redistribution power to commissions instead of legislatures is unconstitutional, although the Supreme Court rejected that argument in a 2015 Arizona case.
“We’re stuck with them whether we like them or not where they are, so you get the most out of them and work with them,” said Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust. “But these commissions are set up in a way that favors Democrats and their liberal allies.”
In Colorado, however, some Democrats are frustrated that the commission has done the opposite – drawing a map that does not reflect the state’s trend to the left over the past decade. The commission approved a congressional map that would likely offer four Democratic-leaning seats, three Republican-leaning seats, and a new rocking district.
“For the purposes of House scrutiny in 2022, this direct district will cause severe heartburn for National Democrats,” said Craig Hughes, a Colorado-based Democratic consultant. “We didn’t get a card that exploits this new blue state status at all.
And Colorado Republicans, who otherwise would be completely left out of the redistribution process, consider themselves lucky.
“We got one, maybe two competitive seats, which is way better than what the legislature would have generated,” said Josh Penry, a Colorado-based Republican consultant who worked to push through the voting initiative. creating the commission, which was ultimately supported by over 70% of voters in 2018.