Redistricting panel warns against gerrymandering
Three people huddled around a painted map of Virginia that hung on a wall in a meeting room in the Capitol. A young man gestured animatedly toward certain counties and legislative districts while his audience nodded in approval.
“And what did you do with Roanoke?” Judy Ford Wason, an adviser to the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting, asked the young man.
He suddenly stopped at the question, betraying his uncertainty.
“I … I can’t remember,” confessed Brian Cannon, a third-year law student from the College of William and Mary.
Cannon and first-year law student Brian Rothenburg were at the General Assembly to present to the commission their law school’s redistricting map for the Virginia Redistricting Competition, a contest among colleges and universities to redraw the state’s political boundaries.
Friday’s presentation was part of a series of public forums that the redistricting commission is hosting to encourage citizen involvement in the redistricting process. The panel will hold three more forums over the next week.
The advisory commission was created by Gov. Bob McDonnell to propose how to redraw Virginia’s legislative and congressional districts in light of population changes over the past decade. The governor asked the panel to do its job without regard to political allegiance or concern for protecting parties or incumbents.
However, the real power over redistricting rests with the General Assembly. Legislators will meet in a special session on the matter next month.
Members of the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting said lawmakers should be cautious when attempting to draw their new districts.
“There is no excuse for less than mathematical precision,” said William Hurd, a legal consultant to the commission. He emphasized the importance of ensuring the “one man, one vote” principle when carving out districts.
Legislators should not divide minority communities with the intent to take away their “ability to elect the candidate of their choice,” Hurd said.
To show how to redraw political districts in nonpartisan ways, the commission invited colleges and universities to participate in the Virginia Redistricting Competition.
Thirteen schools – including George Mason, Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth universities – took up the challenge.
Each had at least one team of students prepare a set of maps. The students presented their maps to the commission at Friday’s forum.
As the website for the Virginia Redistricting Competition explains, redistricting usually is done by the political party in power. “This process has led to increased gerrymandering and has allowed political parties to increase their majorities, effectively limiting competition — the foundation of a healthy functioning democracy — and causing partisan gridlock.”
The students’ entries in the competition will be judged by two national experts on redistricting: Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. The winners will receive up to $2,000.
Besides the students, a handful of state delegates attended Friday’s forum of the redistricting commission. They included Democrats Joe Morrissey of Highland Springs and Bob Brink of Arlington and John O’Bannon of Henrico County.
Morrissey condemned both parties for gerrymandering districts to protect incumbents.
“It’s disgraceful that politicians are selecting who they want to represent,” Morrissey said. “We’ve got this wonderful panel and these students with their wonderful plans, and the politicians aren’t going to pay any attention to it at all.”
Future Redistricting Forums
The Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting will hold one more forum at 7 p.m. on March 21 at Norfolk State University. The forum will be in Ballroom 149 of the New Student Center.
The 11-member commission plans to present its report on April 1, a week before the General Assembly holds a special session on redistricting.
Holman Middle School student Victoria Nguyen recently was named Miss Virginia American Coed Junior Teen after competing in the Miss Virginia American Coed pageant in Williamsburg. She was the youngest competitor in her division. Nguyen now will advance to represent Virginia at the 2015 Miss American Junior Teen Pageant at Walt Disney World in Florida in November. > Read more.
Companion Extraordinaire Home Care and Skilled Services will be honoring veterans and current military members May 14 at 11 a.m. The event will take place at 5311 Lakeside Avenue.
Companion Extraordinaire dedicated a hall in its new Lakeside office as a “Wall of Honor” and will be presenting 13 military service men and women with certificates as well as placing their service photos on the wall.
> Read more.
Public vote open through Friday to select winner
Citizen Staff Reports
Henrico resident Haley Malloy is one of three national finalists for a $10,000 scholarship, whose winner will be determined by the vote of the public.
Malloy is a finalist for The Goddard School Anthony A. Martino Scholarship, which is open annually to any high school junior or senior who graduated from a Goddard School pre-kindergarten or kindergarten program. Applicants are evaluated based upon the work ethic and perseverance they have demonstrated – two key characteristics of Martino, the founder of the Goddard School franchise system. > Read more.
Disneynature’s ‘Monkey Kingdom’ is its strongest yet
“Did you know monkeys could swim?” asks Tina Fey in Monkey Kingdom. While she’s asking, a toque macaque (a two foot-long monkey with red-white fur and great hair) breast-strokes under the surface of a pond, yanking out lily pad flowers by her teeth and dragging them ashore to munch later.
Turns out monkeys can swim. And slide down telephone poles. And do the thing from Flashdance where you bring down a cascade of water on your head and shake it off in slow-motion.
All will happen in Monkey Kingdom, the eighth film in nine years from Disneynature, Disney’s wildlife documentary outlet. > Read more.
Relax this holiday weekend with Fridays Uncorked at Southern Season – taste wines from the Roman Empire! Or at James River Cellars who is hosting “Experience Virginia” – sample Virginia wine, beer, cider and mead. And what goes better with wine than strawberries – an annual tradition in Varina, the Gallmeyer Farms’ Strawberry Fields Festival is tomorrow. Other fun happenings this weekend include: “A Little Princess” at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen; weekly dance at American Legion Post 125; and National Theatre Live’s “Man and Superman” at the University of Richmond. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Final performance of 2015 season – ‘Quartet’ – starts this week
CAT Theatre’s final show of its 51st season – Quartet by Ronald Harwood – will open May 22 and run through June 6. It will be the show’s Richmond-area premiere.
The theatre also announced its four-show schedule for its 52nd season, which will begin in October and continue into June 2016, and announced a new partnership with The Bifocals Theatre Project, an outreach program into senior communities in the Richmond region. > Read more.
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CalendarThe Public Relations Society of America-Richmond will meet from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club, 1700 Lakeside Ave. Come hear experts from both the corporate… Full text