In a panel discussion on Tuesday at the Washington office of the Center for American Progress, a Virginia state legislator and representatives of the Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) shared insights on challenges to democracy posed by gerrymandering and state laws that limit voting rights.
“In Virginia, partisan gerrymandering has really distorted democracy,” state Del. Alfonso Lopez asserted in his passionate opening speech. He recited examples of the Commonwealth’s failures to reflect the will of the citizens and implored the crowd to defeat pro-gerrymandering politicians. While Virginia’s demographic center of gravity has shifted from rural to urban and suburban areas, Lopez contended that gerrymandering still insulates entrenched politicians from public pressure and so allows them to block down economic policies benefiting the state’s urban majority.
Danielle Lang , whose organization (the CLC) is representing plaintiffs in the Gill v. Whitford gerrymandering case, described how new political science tools like the “efficiency gap” (the difference between actual party support in a community and the representation of each party in the community’s legislative delegation) are becoming an integral part of the legal case against gerrymandering.
During the discussion, both Clayola Brown and Andre Washington, who represented the APRI and its Ohio branch, respectively, emphasized that “activism is the engine that makes change.” Delivering “temporary solutions” to “permanent problems” with voter access to the polls does not suffice, Washington stressed. He cited multiple cases in which voter ID laws prevented Ohioans to exercise their right to vote.
In a report released during the summer, the Center for American Progress in recommended that states create independent redistricting commissions and supported the creation of a legal precedent against partisan gerrymandering through cases like Gill v. Whitford, now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court. In a separate study on voter roll purges, the nonprofit suggests that states adopt automatic voter registration, fully comply with the National Voter Registration Act, and participate in the Election Registration Information Center.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections