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When election time rolls around there's always plenty of talk of change. The problem, however, is regardless of who is elected, the eventual outcome almost always brings us more of the same.
Take the recent action in the Virginia House of Delegates, for example.
After more than 150 years of Democrat-controlled redistricting, the Republicans finally had their shot in 2001 to change the way the process was handled. Instead, it simply meant a new party was in charge.
There was hope this year all of that would change. The Republicans controlled the House; the Democrats controlled the Senate. But instead of opting for change, a few Republicans in the House decided against it.
And we all suffer the consequences.
Following the census every 10 years, the General Assembly is entrusted with the job of drawing the district lines for the Virginia House of Delegates, the Senate and Congress. Over the years this has turned into a fiasco as the party in control drew outlandish districts to favor its own candidates.
This has resulted in fewer contested elections and lower voter turnout. Protect the incumbents has been the mantra and establish greater control has been the goal of the party in charge.
This year should have been different.
There was a strong bipartisan call for a change in the system.
Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine was on board. So was Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.
Both had endorsed a new plan.
That proposal would have set up a seven-member commission to draw the boundaries, taking the process out of the hands of the General Assembly. At least to a point.
The commission would have been made up of three Democrats and three Republicans and they would have then appointed a seventh member to serve as an independent chairman of the group.
Some claimed it wouldn't have made a difference, because the General Assembly would have still had the final say. But that's short-sighted. The fact that a non-partisan commission would have drawn up the districts would have provided for a plan less dependent on politics and more on reality. In addition, once that plan was released, the General Assembly would have had more public pressure to approve the plan, regardless of which party is in charge.
In the end, the proposal died because of partisan politics. Three Republicans on the subcommittee of the House Privileges and Elections Committee voted to kill the bill; the two Democrats on the subcommittee voting in favor of advancing the plan. This should have gone to the House floor for consideration. It's a shame the Republicans chose to kill it. This after the Democratic-controlled Senate had overwhelmingly supported the bill.
In addition to some on both sides of the aisle, those who favored the legislation included the League of Women Voters and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. Those supporting it believed it would helped create fair and logical districts ? and a more competitive election process. In fact, the Virginia Redistricting Coalition is on record stating that last year only 17 of the 140 districts had competitive elections. "We've seen three sitting legislators from the minority party drawn into the same district and districts over 150 miles long, all falsely drawn in the name of representative government," the Coalition stated in a Jan. 23 statement on the current process.
Now we can expect more of the same.
It's no wonder people are disillusioned with their political leaders. In the end it was just more of the same from the political process. The voters ? and the Commonwealth ? are the ones hurt as a result.