At the beginning of every decade, states redraw political district maps after the decennial census. The process of redistricting ensures that districts are balanced based on population changes within, and between states, theoretically ensuring that all districts are both equally populated and representative. But redistricting also provides an enormous opportunity for politicians to manipulate state legislative and U.S. Congressional district maps for partisan purposes.
The term “gerrymandering” refers to a broad range of redistricting abuses, including, but not limited to, the fracturing of communities, the protection of incumbents, the targeting of political foes or parties, and the lack of competition in districts. Within the last 20 years, we have seen an increase in a type of aggressive gerrymandering whereby one party draws maps with surgical precision, using computer modeling and “big data,” in order to maximize and lock in a disproportionately large share of seats.
This presentation will discuss the history of gerrymandering and its adverse effects both in Virginia and the Nation, current efforts to challenge gerrymandering in the courts, and efforts of various states to enact legislation or pass constitutional amendments to reform the redistricting process. Particular attention will be paid to actions taken during the 2019 Virginia Legislative session to prepare for the next round of redistricting in 2021.
Speaker Bio: Bill Millhouser, a Fairfax County volunteer with the grassroots organization OneVirginia2021, has promoted redistricting reform in Virginia for last 2 1/2 years.
In this capacity, he has worked closely with the OneVirginia2021 staff in Richmond, met with numerous statewide elected officials, and talked with thousands of Northern Virginia residents at polling places, festivals, community meetings, and other events.
In addition to working with OneVirginia2021, he is active in voter registration and educational activities and has served as an election officer in Fairfax County.