By THE BLUE AND GRAY EDITORIAL BOARD
After the historic state election on Tuesday, November 5 where the Democrats took control of the Virginia General Assembly for the first time in 26 years, constituents are now looking to see if the candidates will follow through with the promises made on the campaign trail. An issue prevalent in Virginia and impacts college campuses is gerrymandering.
Democrats from Virginia Senator Tim Kaine to Delegate elect Josh Cole have all spoken about the importance of switching to non-partisan redistricting, which would mean that officeholders could not draw districts. The impact of gerrymandering and the influence district lines has on elections is seen all across Virginia.
According to an article in The Daily Progress, the issue is especially prevalent in Central Virginia where Louisa, Fluvanna and Albemarle counties are separated between two districts and have district lines that divide several precincts.
The role of gerrymandering is seen directly within the city of Fredericksburg. In an Instagram post, Cole shared an image of him on one side of College Avenue and democratic candidate Jess Foster on the other. Given that current district lines placed him in the 28th House District and Foster in the 88th House district, the visual was used to highlight how “traffic lines split the City of Fredericksburg” and to emphasize why he is calling for a change to independent redistricting.
Current district lines drawn through gerrymandering not only impact city boundaries, but they are arranged to divide the vote from younger demographics, specifically college students. A relatively small campus, UMW is split into three voting precincts. Students in Eagle Landing, the University Apartments on William Street and campus dorms all belong to different districts and different polling locations. This problem is not exclusive to UMW, as Christopher Newport University is also split between two delegate districts.
While the Republican party has benefited over the years, eyes are now on the newly elected Democrat candidates to see if they will take the high road they ran on or if they will continue to allow gerrymandering to exist. It’s important that voters use the momentum and civic passion that they voted with to monitor and encourage their newly elected representatives to follow through on their promises to end gerrymandering.