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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.
For information, contact commission staff member Steven Jones at 804-201-5174 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); or the commission’s chairman, Bob Holsworth, at 804-839-8782 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Community

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

Dragon boats invade the James

Hundreds of spectators filled the banks of the James River to watch two dozen teams of competitors in the Walgreen’s Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing Aug. 2. The event included a number of races, as well as several cultural performances. The sport is billed as the fastest growing water sport in the world.(Photo by Roger Walk for the Henrico Citizen) > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

‘Planes’ sequel crashes

‘Fire and Rescue’ proves too predictable, boring

Planes: Fire and Rescue opens with a dedication to the hero firefighters of the world. It’s an admirable notion, and it makes sense, given that this is a film about planes that fight fires.

But here it might be a little out of place, as Planes: Fire and Rescue has a few things on its mind besides supporting the men and women who routinely throw themselves into burning buildings.

Like money. Lots and lots of money – into the 11-figures-and-counting range. In case you weren’t aware, 2006’s Cars was the biggest moneymaker Disney had in decades – not because of how much green the film printed at the box office, but because a combination of toys, games and snack foods stamped with the Cars seal of approval routinely pulls in tens of billions of dollars per year. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


This weekend in Henrico, you can learn about fall herbs or mad science. Enjoy some laughs from West End Comedy or Three-Penny Theatre’s production of “The Rivah Home Companion.” For music lovers, Jennifer Nettles is in concert tonight and the fifth annual GWAR-B-Q takes place tomorrow at Hadad’s Lake. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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