It’s the issue former President Barack Obama will focus on, joining people like Arnold Schwarzenegger and HBO’s John Oliver, who consider it the biggest threat to the United States’ representative government. The menace is not one that comes from outside the country, but a homegrown tradition dating back to the earliest days of the republic: gerrymandering.
That’s the process in which district lines are drawn to favor the party in power, and both Democrats and Republicans are guilty. Ever wonder why Virginia, a state that has gone blue in the past three presidential elections, has Republican majorities in the House of Representatives and the General Assembly? That would be gerrymandering.
Since the last time Virginia’s lines were drawn following the 2010 U.S. census, OneVirginia2021, founded by local mensch Leigh Middleditch, has been working with members of all political persuasions to get compact and contiguous electoral districts drawn before the next redistricting after the 2020 census through grassroots efforts, education and litigation.
One of those efforts is the documentary GerryRIGGED: Turning Democracy On Its Head, which calls gerrymandering both “insidious” and “invasive.” It will screen in Charlottesville April 26.
Local photographer Dan Grogan became a believer after attending a workshop “to address this threat to democracy,” and now is on OneVirginia2021’s foundation and education committee.
“Our biggest enemy is ignorance and apathy,” says Grogan, who points out that in the past seven election cycles, Virginia incumbents “have won at a 98 percent clip” because they’ve selected their voters, not the other way around.
Several bills are put forward in the General Assembly every session, and they typically die in a Republican-controlled subcommittee. But this year at one early morning meeting, committee members were shouted at by angry citizens after redistricting reform bills were killed.
Delegate Steve Landes, one of Albemarle’s four delegates, carried a bill to take the politics out of line drawing. That was defeated, but “the issue is gaining a lot of steam,” says Grogan. “We’ve been done ill by both parties.”
GerryRIGGED screens for free at 7pm Wednesday, April 26, at PVCC’s Dickinson Building.