RELEASE: In Virginia, Partisan Gerrymandering Negatively Affects Legislative Accountability and Fair Representation

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Washington, D.C. — To account for changes in population, the principle of “one person, one vote” requires states to redraw their election districts every 10 years. In some states, legislators can manipulate district boundaries to benefit their own political party, engaging in extreme partisan gerrymandering. Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a case in which a group of voters—represented by the Campaign Legal Center—are challenging maps drawn in Wisconsin. The case will determine whether these maps were drawn unconstitutionally to benefit one political party over another.

While Wisconsin is currently at the center of this fight, it is just one of several states where partisan gerrymandering is particularly acute. Extreme partisan gerrymandering weakens voters’ ability to affect election outcomes and exercise accountability over government, negatively affecting the responsiveness of legislators and crippling fair representation. Ahead of tomorrow’s hearing, Center for American Progress experts Liz Kennedy and Billy Corriher have prepared state-specific fact sheets on states with some of the most extreme examples of partisan gerrymandering and its consequences: WisconsinMichiganNorth CarolinaOhioRhode Island, and Virginia.

“Gerrymandering leads to less competitive elections, and this means legislators don’t have to worry about what voters think. Democracy is about voters being able to influence their elected officials, but gerrymandering makes it harder for voters to make their voice heard,” said Billy Corriher, deputy director of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets.

In 2013, Virginia Democrats won all statewide elections, but Republicans won a supermajority in the Virginia House of Delegates. In 2015, the next election saw Republican House candidates getting 56 percent of the vote but two-thirds of the seats. Gerrymandering by Virginia legislators who are not responsive to their constituents’ preferences has harmed voters. For example, in 2016, the Republican-controlled Virginia Legislature passed a law barring local governments from increasing the minimum wage, even though a 2014 poll found that two-thirds of Virginians support a higher minimum wage. A recent poll found that 69 percent of voters support the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but the Virginia Legislature rejected the expansion, even though the federal government would initially cover almost all of the cost. A similar percentage of voters polled supported a law preventing discrimination against LGBT people. However, LGBT nondiscrimination bills have failed in the past three sessions. Wide majorities of Virginians also support same-sex adoption and oppose businesses discriminating against LGBT people, yet the Legislature has passed laws allowing discrimination against same-sex couples in the name of religious freedom. The Legislature has also slashed education funding, despite 72 percent of Virginia voters opposing cuts to K-12 education.

The bottom line is that extreme partisan gerrymandering discriminates against targeted voters by locking them out of achieving representational power. This prevents progress on solutions that majorities of voters support, such as a higher minimum wage and expanded Medicaid programs,” said Liz Kennedy, director of Democracy and Government Reform at the Center for American Progress and co-author of the fact sheets. “In Gill v. Whitford, the Supreme Court has to stand up for the right to fair representation in our democracy and set limits on partisan gerrymandering to prevent these continuing abuses.”

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For more information or to speak to an expert on this topic, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6258.

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