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Gerrymandering "A Plague On Both Our Parties" Assert Former White House Spokesman Robert Weiner & Elections Analyst Tom Sherman; Sunday Article in Virginian-Pilot

FIRST DEMOCRATS, NOW REPUBLICANS ABUSED IT; IN 2012 DEMS HAD 1.7 MILLION MAJORITY BUT R'S GOT +33 IN HOUSE; AUTHORS CALL FOR NONPARTISAN DECISIONS ON FAIR DISTRICTS

WASHINGTON, Oct. 26, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The politicized redistricting process known as "gerrymandering" is"a plague on both our parties," is "a byproduct of a failed democracy," and must be reined in before partisan state legislatures fully disenfranchise voters, former Clinton and Bush White House Spokesman Robert Weiner and Tom Sherman, elections analyst for Solutions for Change Foundation, argue in The Virginian-Pilot in the Sunday, October 26 edition.  They titled the article, "GERRYMANDERING: A PLAGUE ON BOTH OUR PARTIES."

Weiner and Sherman first discuss the 2012 election in which, "According to the Federal Election Commission, although voters cast 1.7 million more votes for Democratic than Republican candidates in U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans gained a 234 -201 majority in the House."

Weiner and Sherman note that, "In order to leave election votes 'taken by states' as provided in the Constitution, Federal courts have allowed state legislatures to engage in 'gerrymandering' since 1812, when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry oversaw the creation of a sprawling congressional district that snaked borders around pockets of supporters. The new boundary vaguely resembled a salamander, so reporters seized on the governor's bizarre progeny, and coined the term 'Gerry-mander.'"

Weiner and Sherman laid out some recent history as well:  "Initially, Democrats championed the process, gerrymandering districts to maintain minority populations that vote for them.  Due to this strategy, Democrats controlled Congress for 40 years, from 1955 to 1995."

However, "Republicans learned the lesson-- and got better at gerrymandering than the Democrats. The GOP realized they could overcrowd districts created by Democrats with disproportionate amounts of minority populations. By increasing numbers in a safe Democratic district, Republicans reduced the influence of the liberal voting bloc in both state and Congressional elections. Republicans controlled the House from 1995 until losing election cycles in 2006 and 2008.  The party retained its power in state legislatures, and doubled down on drawing favorable redistricting maps after the 2010 Census."

The writers point out that the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), who "claims to be the "largest caucus of Republican state leaders in the country," released a study in 2013 titled REDMAP 2012 Summary Report.  "In the report, the RSLC actually boasts that the disparity between the 1.7 million votes cast for Democratic candidates and the resulting Republican majority in 2012 was an 'aberration' purposely created.  The RSLC admits it focused on new district boundaries in states with 'the most redistricting activity,' thereby instilling what the group called a 'Republican stronghold in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.'"

Weiner and Sherman state, "In early October, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled the 2011 redistricting effort in Virginia was unconstitutional-- specifically due to the 3rd District, comprised of five geographically separate locations between Portsmouth and Richmond that have only the James River and a high concentration of African-American populations in common."

Weiner and Sherman commend Judge Allyson Duncan, who found in the ruling that the redistricting process by the legislature is "not a license for the State to do whatever it deems necessary to ensure continued electoral success." The state legislature now must redraw district boundaries by April 2015.

The two quote Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA 3), who said "I hope and expect the General Assembly will more equitably and appropriately balance the influence of all Virginia's voters, as mandated by this decision, when they redraw the third congressional district and adjacent congressional districts next session,"  as well as Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who concluded that the court ruling, "demonstrates the need to get partisan politics out of how Virginia draws its legislative boundaries."

They highlight the fact that the General Assembly "had multiple non-partisan solutions to choose from: there was a map drawn by the Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting, appointed by former Governor Bob McDonnell (R), as well as multiple submissions in a statewide collegiate competition featuring top tier state schools, such as the College of William and Mary and University of Virginia. Rather than allowing the divided legislature to toy with where people vote for partisan gain, we must devise an independent redistricting system before risking further voter disenfranchisement."

Weiner and Sherman agree that after reviewing Virginia's redistricting efforts, "non-partisan commissions improve upon the current districts in dramatic ways without sacrificing equal population standards or voting rights considerations," as a 2011 study by Christopher Newport University concluded.  However, Weiner and Sherman contend that "the General Assembly instead opted to pass a map drawn by the conservative legislature, even though, according to the report, it would 'make legislative districts less compact, split more counties and cities, and separate commonsense communities.'"

The pair then point out that Gov. McAuliffe started to tackle the problem before the courts did in late September. He appointed a ten-member bi-partisan board to review Virginia's ethics rules and redistricting policies, reminding the commission that fair voting practices "are the essential covenant of democracy."

Weiner and Sherman conclude, "Gerrymandering is the by-product of a failed democracy.  Every voter should be guaranteed a voice that matters and is heard. Citizens need to strip partisan state legislatures of their control over redistricting before the legislature strips the citizens of their power to vote."

Robert Weiner is a former White House spokesman for the Clinton and Bush Administrations, former spokesman for the Government House Operations Committee, and served as spokesman for Congressmen John Conyers, Charlie Rangel, Ed Koch, and Claude Pepper. Tom Sherman, a Williamsburg resident, is government and elections analyst for Solutions for Change Foundation.

Contact: Bob Weiner/Tom Sherman 301-283-0821, cell 202-306-1200
[email protected]

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/gerrymandering-a-plague-on-both-our-parties-assert-former-white-house-spokesman-robert-weiner--elections-analyst-tom-sherman-sunday-article-in-virginian-pilot-890833844.html

SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates and Solutions for Change

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