West Virginians for Transparency has been working throughout the entire state on a variety of issues that ensure that our elected officials are representing all West Virginians, rather than insider special interest groups. One of these reforms that our organization is pushing for is non-partisan redistricting, which we believe is a common sense solution to the status quo. According to Huntington’s Herald Dispatch, residents of Cabell and Wayne counties are pushing for more community-based voting districts in these state-wide discussions. It is imperative that West Virginians stand up and fight for a non-partisan committee to draw the new voting districts, to help voters ensure their elected officials live close to them to better understand their needs, rather than hours away due to long winding district mean to impact who wins a primary or general election.
One example from West Virginia politics is when the Democratic Party of West Virginia utilized gerrymandering to control the two state legislative chambers from 1933 up until the 2014 elections where the Republican Party eventually took control of the State legislatures. The end of this practice is vital to ensure that the citizens of West Virginia are able to vote for their representatives.
When power shifted in the Virginia legislature last year, a new nonpartisan redistricting commission blocked Democrats from gerrymandering the voting districts to create a super majority. Other states should use this power to end gerrymandering and stop this longstanding practice of using out-of-state data companies to manipulate voting districts to break up communities and force some voters to live far away from their representative. The proposal requires states to use nonpartisan independent commissions to draw their election maps. It would let West Virginians who understand the state’s terrain and communities discuss and draw maps – as they hired data companies from California or elsewhere to rig the district to affect who wins the primary or general election for whoever hired them.
Special interest manipulation of voting districts must end. At a time when West Virginians may lose a Congressional seat, the special interests will use mapping software, artificial intelligence, and big data to carve out neighborhoods, streets, even houses. If either party utilizes partisan gerrymandering, then the voters won’t have accurate representation if they continue to draw the election maps to guarantee control of the state legislature.
In addition to Virginia, Ohio Republicans replaced gerrymandering with a commission and new rules to keep districts compact so voters live closer to their representatives. These changes should be used everywhere to stop politicians from manipulating election districts to favor themselves at voters’ expense in the next primary or general election.