Democratic Majority in Virginia Strips Itself of the Power to Draw District Lines


That said, the leader of the national party’s campaign against gerrymandering, the former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., had not publicly supported the Virginia measure. A spokesman, Patrick Rodenbush, said there were concerns that its protections against partisan interference were not strong enough.

On Friday, Mr. Holder said in a statement that he was still concerned about the amendment’s protections for minorities, and said he worried that there would be too little time for an independent panel to be assembled and start work before redistricting begins in early 2021. But debate over alternative amendments “helped bring to light some of its weaknesses, many of which, but not all, have been addressed by enabling legislation.”

The Virginia debate unfolded as Republicans in three other states have moved to roll back ballot initiatives favoring nonpartisan redistricting that voters approved in 2018.

In Missouri, where 60 percent of voters backed a constitutional amendment mandating nonpartisan maps, the Republican-controlled Legislature is pushing a new amendment initiative that would effectively repeal that overhaul. The citizens group that shepherded the first measure to passage, Clean Missouri, has pledged to fight it, calling the proposal “gerrymandering, plain and simple.”

Sean Nicholson, the campaign director for Clean Missouri, predicted that any change the Legislature proposes will be turned down in November. “People voted by an almost two-to-one margin — Republicans, Democrats, independents — to pass this in 2018,” he said in an interview. “One thing we’ve seen is that voters are legitimately angry at the idea of politicians trying to overturn their vote.”

Michigan Republicans first sought to strip state funds from an independent redistricting commission that voters approved, and then filed suit in federal court last July to abolish it, calling the panel “blatantly unconstitutional.”

And in Utah, the anti-gerrymandering group Better Boundaries reached a compromise on a new redistricting procedure with that state’s Republican-controlled Legislature, which was poised to neuter a citizen-passed plan handing political map drawing to an independent panel.


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