Gillespie Pushed VA Gerrymandering, Praises Court for Killing It

There’s a heating Senate campaign in Virginia between incumbent Democrat Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie, who was the primary advocate for the gerrymandering scheme that was recently struck down by a federal court for being racially biased. But he says that proves that there’s no need for more protections and safeguards:

Asked if he would support a bill to restore Voting Rights Act protections gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, Gillespie argued that more protections are unnecessary because the courts are still able to strike down discriminatory laws like Virginia’s.

“We saw here just recently in Virginia that civil rights and the Voting Rights Act is being enforced. We have had our district lines overturned by the courts and it is one of the reasons why the federal court is so important,” Gillespie said, abruptly pivoting to attack Warner on a nepotism scandal.

The problem is, Gillespie was a key architect in Republicans’ gerrymandering effort that led to the Virginia maps in the first place.

Shortly after Gillespie became the chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) in 2010, the group launched a major push to redistrict state legislative maps to favor Republicans, called the Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP. The RSLC raised more than $30 million to pack state legislatures with Republicans who would approve maps to lock in Republican seats for the next decade.

His answer is also irrelevant. The provision of the Voting Rights Act that the Supreme Court invalidated were not the basis for overturning gerrymandered districts in the first place, which is why the courts continue to invalidate such district-rigging schemes even after that section of the VRA was overturned.

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  • Area Man

    Elect me as Senator! Then elect Senators who will confirm judges who will put a stop to me!

  • Childermass

    Maybe some computer science people can write an algorithm that takes basic geography and census data for any state (or whatever) and how many districts are needed and spits out fair districts using a few simple rules like compactness being the top priority with borders being preferred at major highways, major rivers, and boundaries of other political units like counties. Ethnicity, political affiliation, and where the current incumbents are at should be not entered.

  • eric

    @2 – its complicated. It may make sense to have non-compact districts in cases where your interests are most closely related to people via some oddity of development or geography. Everyone living along a certain river or highway, for example, may have a common interest that is representation-worthy that they don’t share with someone 2-3 miles away but not on that river/highway. So rather than a border, it may make more sense to have some long thin districts draw around highways. Also remember that ethnicity has in the past been included in order to assist minorities in being represented, and not just used by conservatives to minimize their representation. IOW there may be some good reasons to consider it. Thirdly, these district drawers do in fact use algorithms to assist them – in drawing districts that meet their goals. An algorithm is just a tool, not necessarily a solution. Similar to GIGO, in this case you might say that any such program could result in a RIRO (Republican assumptions in, Republican districts out) or DIDO problem.

  • dingojack

    Did Rep. Gillespie credit his position to Detective Virgil Tibbs?!?


  • Modusoperandi

    #2 & #3, no, it’s quit simple. Vote Republican and they won’t have to go through all this to ruin democracy. Granted, they’ll do it anyway, but that’s just Tradition, and will be upheld by the Supreme Court for that reason.

  • Steve Morrison

    @3: You would get a DIDO problem if your algorithm required that districts be as large as possible for a border of given length. (Well, a Dido problem, anyhow.)

  • Suido

    eric #3:

    Also remember that ethnicity has in the past been included in order to assist minorities in being represented, and not just used by conservatives to minimize their representation.

    A short sighted and self defeating initiative which resulted in token representation, ensuring the minority groups’ representatives were always in the minority, and safer seats for non-minority candidates in neighbouring districts, who then have even less reason to consider their minority constituents.

  • howardhershey

    The problem with compactness as a general rule is that blacks and other minorities tend to be concentrated in urban areas. The general rule is that for every minority majority district formed, one gets two Republican districts. It is primarily in the South that one has to produce oddly shaped districts to generate such minority majority districts, but even there, most such districts are urban. There are computer programs that can optimize for competitiveness but are used to minimize competitiveness. Having more “swing” districts would be a good thing because it would lead to more ‘moderate’ policies in those districts. IOW, more RINOS and DINOS who need to take minority views (and that includes minority views in some urban areas) seriously.

  • Crimson Clupeidae

    Childermass@2: Such code mostly exists already, it would just be a matter of adapting it to census data. Hell, it’s probably been completely developed and tested, but no states/governments are willing to implement it since it may endanger their seat.

  • abb3w

    While having more “swing” districts might lead to more moderate politicians coming from them, it might instead lead to alternating flavors of partisan being elected, and laws being alternatingly passed and repealed as the momentary edge tips between the factions.

    I’m not convinced there’s any good solution over the long term; in the short term, I think that the “Shortest Splitline” algorithm (Google for it) is at least an improvement over the current partisan method. The major downside to the SSA is that the districts that result tend to split urban areas down the center, rather than keeping them unified; a major form of “common interest” is divided, rather than united. This seems a terrible drawback, but at least seems to give a reference line for trying to come up with a better one.