Public Comments for 01/29/2021 Privileges and Elections - Voting Rights Subcommittee
HB2082 - Virginia Redistricting Commission; transparency in redistricting process.
Last Name: McKiernan Organization: Virginia Election Administrators Locality: Rappahannock

During the course of your duties, when considering our (Election Administrators/General Registrars/Directors of Elections) request to finally be paid commensurate with our duties after 29 years of added duties without corresponding compensation, please keep in mind that every election law that is passed adds to our duties. There were over 69 NEW Election laws last year in the midst of a pandemic and the most grueling, contentious election cycle EVER. Every election law passed without funding jeopardizes our ability to get it all done due to lack of resources, staff, funding and time. The loss of any of the experienced, dedicated General Registrars because of compensation is a travesty and is likely to become a reality without the appropriate compensation. Please correct this inequity in compensation THIS SESSION. 1. Adjust compensation brackets in accordance with state studies (2 of them) 2. resume 100% reimbursement of NEW base salary to localities 3. Make it happen THIS session. We have earned it. We are the ones out here taking the abuse as a result of unfounded accusations and insinuations. Please understand that the 133 General Registrars statewide who count votes, compile results, verify results, process absentee by mail ballots, and so much more, do so with bi-partisan observers (sent by local political committees!!) and sworn election officials every.single.step! NOTHING is done in secret. EVERYTHING is reviewed and verified by a three member board (Electoral Board) representing both political parties. These board members are nominated by the local political committees and signed off on by a panel of judges! WE are not the enemy and the more you present laws insinuating that something is shady, the more you erode voter confidence on both sides of the aisle! The fact that a bill has passed the house to ADD SUNDAYS to early voting should be enough reason to pay us appropriately itself. We work 100s and 1000s of hours of overtime yet aren't paid equally and aren't valued equally to our fellow county government counterparts. The longer you ignore this and pass over doing the right thing, the more you send the message to your constituents, candidates, and fellow delegates that elections aren't important to you. NOW is the time to make this right.

Last Name: Saxon Organization: Virginia Education Association Locality: Charlottesville

The Virginia Education Association supports HB 2082. The redistricting process must be transparent so that voters can have confidence in the process and outcomes. Additionally, the allocation of incarcerated people to their home district is the equitable way to ensure that their needs and civil rights will be considered by the officials that represent their community.

Last Name: Singleton Organization: Office of the Executive Secretary, Supreme Court Locality: Richmond

The amendments to § 30-399 of the substitute may raise Constitutional issues to the extent they limit the Supreme Court’s ability to engage in confidential deliberations and frustrate the Court’s ability to act consistent with the provisions of Article II, § 6-A of the Constitution of Virginia.

Last Name: Shin Organization: Virginia Civic Engagement Table Locality: Richmond

Mr. Chair and Members of the Committee, On behalf of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, I am confirming our support of HB2082 as this bill helps create needed transparency and accessibility in the redistricting process. We believe the newly developed Redistricting Commission should work to be accessible and transparent in all of its meetings, decisions, and communications. With this legislation, we can better ensure language access, public comment, and inclusivity as we move through the process of Redistricting in Virginia. It is for this reason we would like to thank Delegate Levine for introducing this legislation and being amenable to working with us on amendments. We ask for the committee to vote in favor of this bill. Thank you, Irene Shin Executive Director Virginia Civic Engagement Table

Last Name: Morgan Locality: Leesburg

Please support HB 2082, Mark Levine's bill that provides transparency and fairness to the Redistricting process. It will require meetings and hearings of the commission and the Supreme Court of Virginia to be livestreamed; allows for public comment after maps are proposed; requires any proposed plan be approved by both the Democratic and Republican special masters. This legislation will not delay the commission's work in any way. Increasing public input and transparency will likely improve the maps as well as the process. Thank you.

Last Name: Smith Organization: Herndon Reston Indivisible Locality: Reston

I support HB 2082 Virginia Redistricting Commission; transparency in redistricting process with chief patron Delegate Mark Levine. I did not support the redistricting amendment because of the many flaws inherent in its potential execution – which have come to fruition with the seating of a flawed “citizen” commissioner. Those who campaigned for the Amendment touted it as a system that would be completely transparent to voters and watchdogs, with public meetings to be held across Virginia, with all data and notes from the meetings being completely open to the public. Its time for the delegates, especially those who voted for the Amendment, to stand by the glowing promotions of its value – and ensure that it does what as promised. HB 2082 will bolster the transparency of the commission by requiring all meetings on redistricting in the Virginia Redistricting Commission and the Supreme Court of Virginia to be livestreamed and recorded, whether the meetings are held virtually or in person. In addition, this bill will allow for public comment even after maps have been proposed. It also prohibits off-the-record negotiating on district selection and requires any proposed plan before the Virginia Supreme Court to have the approval of both a Democratic and a Republican special master. This legislation will not hurt or delay the commission's work in any way. By increasing public input and transparency the bill will help make the maps fair and just – which was the original goal of the amendment – was it not?

Last Name: Jacobs Locality: Herndon

The Redistricting commission is off to bad start. I attended the first meeting and there were many problems. For one thing, they didn’t know the census would have provisional data that they could use before I mentioned it to them in chat. It’s also clear the whole committee is flawed because it has no members from the Dulles tech corridor where the largest growth outside of Fredericksburg in the Commonwealth is occurring. No one from Ashburn or Sterling or Herndon! But, that’s not my point. My point is they wish to shut down public comment through chat. Originally they had public comment through chat opened, but they shut off chat when one member of the public wished to speak but couldn’t. This was a travesty of democracy! But, I also think that all questions and chat from the public directed toward the panel should form part of the public record. And this is what I hope the bill will address. I also hope all meetings will have an online component so all Virginians can attend every meeting and be able to testify. I’m disheartened to see supporters of the Capital insurrection on this committee and feel political leadership would have been better off choosing someone from the Dulles tech corridor such as myself, to be quite frank. My application was exemplary and yet no one in the leadership would consider me because they knew I was working for the people, not for them. Leadership chose no one from the Dulles Tech Corridor and I blame the oversight squarely on those politicians lack of respect for the fine people of this commonwealth and instead wishing only to self-serve. I’m sorry I have to be so brutally honest with my opinions and observations. I will end simply with the fact that I write in support of this bill and the greater transparency it will bring to the Redistricting Commission.

Last Name: Jain Organization: Former OneVirginia volunteer Locality: Vienna, VA

I support most of this bill, with one big exception. This bill provides useful transparency improvements to the redistricting commission process. In particular, the requirement that the commission hold public hearings both before proposing new maps and after publishing proposed maps will ensure the public can best express their views during the process. Public comment prior to maps being drawn is useful, but public comment on proposed maps, where problems can clearly be observed, is essential. However, I am concerned with the special master provision. I worry that creating a process where the governor can appoint a tiebreaking special master creates incentives for the party that controls the governorship to recommend initial special masters who will refuse to negotiate, with the intention of having the Governor's "tie-breaking" special master draw maps gerrymandered for that party. This adds more partisanship to the process rather than less. It is better to either keep things as they are or, even better, to allow the Supreme Court to appoint their own special master without input from any politicians. I cannot support this proposal as written, but if the "tiebreaker" special master provision is removed, I would enthusiastically support it.

Last Name: Widener Locality: Gainesville

100 % Voting Rights for incarcerated and those released. Court fees should not deny voting.

Last Name: Shiflett Locality: Staunton

The conditions that invite and encourage voter fraud MUST be dealt with NOW!! ID's, signature matches, and witnesses have to be put in place NOW! Voter Fraud was not only rampant, but encouraged by Democrats both nationally and statewide. Our Republic will be all but gone otherwise. In regards to same sex marriage...it is deviant. What's next? Marriage to children? Polygamy? Marriage is between a man and a woman based on Judeo- Christian principles. Until you figure out how to get the illegal guns away from criminals, I'll carry mine legally at all times. Northam, the black faced fool, and his party are everything that's wrong with Virginia.

Last Name: Norquist Locality: Fredericksburg

Insure you sign COS and stop with politics!

Last Name: Allen Locality: NEWPORT NEWS

I would make some changes to our election process. -rigid background checks for candidates BEFORE they run -any qualified person can run regardless of money backing them -elections should be a PUBLIC SERVICE requiring NO huge financial backing (that would eliminate big corporations, tech, media, etc., and include the average American who can not PAY for a candidate) that encourages puppets in government -campaigning on TV and in public should be free and volunteers working for candidates

Last Name: Jacobs Locality: Herndon

I support Del. Price’s HB1890. Photo ID laws exist to disenfranchise the less well off who often dont have a drivers license of ID card and use public transit. Identifying voters is important but that can be done with a simple name and address document like an electric bill. Further, if photographic evidence is required, let it be on the Commonwealth to ensure the registrar has citizen photos rather than the citizen requiring a photo ID. Most of all, a photo ID not provided for by the Commonwealth is simply a form of, albeit minimal, poll tax. I support Del. Levine’s HB2082. Yesterday, I attended the first meeting of the Redistricting Board. I am concerned that this meeting was not live-streamed to Facebook and/or YouTube, and that the process had so little scrutiny. I’m more disturbed that the chat feature that the public can use was subsequently disabled and someone was barred from submitting commentary because of technical difficulties. Finally, I think all chat and questions for the committee should be added to the public record. There is much to improve in the Redistricting process, and thus bill goes a long way to make it better.

Last Name: Rhyne Organization: Virginia Coalition for Open Government Locality: Williamsburg

The Virginia Coalition for Open Government supports the bill.

Last Name: Bikoff Organization: Virginia Democracy Forward Locality: McLean

I urge you to send forward for approval HB2082, another superb effort by Delegate Mark Levine. I opposed the Constitutional Amendment for a re-districting commission and wrote several analyses of the measure and related statutory alternatives that I sent to members of the General Assembly and published in the online press. Now that the Commission, which the voters approved, is a reality, I support measures that will strengthen it. HB2082 is such a bill. HB2082 sets out important transparency and public participation features for the Commission and, wisely, makes them applicable to the Virginia Supreme Court, if the process defaults there under the Amendment. There is no justification for redistricting done by the Court to not be fully transparent and participatory, especially since recent legislation directs the Court to use two Special Masters. Importantly, this bill makes all "meetings and records" of the Court and Special Masters subject to Virginia FOIA and defines all of their "records and documents," including internal communications, as public information. It is notable that this bill requires that both Special Masters endorse the proposed maps, as a condition for the Court's approval. This will help to remove political party partisanship. The bill also wisely provides a tie-breaker, with a third special master appointed by the Governor, should the first two be deadlocked. A final worthy feature of HB2082 is that it prevents members of the Court, the Special Masters, and other staff and consultants in the redistricting process from engaging in off-the-record communications about establishing districts. This is important to reduce the opportunities for special pleading and horse-trading by persons with an interest in how districts are drawn, especially incumbent legislators and their leaders and supporters. It will help achieve the promise of the Amendment's proponents of ending the practice of "politicians choosing their voters" and creating safe districts for themselves. I believe existing legislation already imposes similar restrictions on secret communications by members of the Commission, especially the citizen members. I suggest that if there are looser rules that apply to the legislator members, that these be tightened, to make them identical to restrictions on the citizen members and similar to the provisions of HB2082 for the other participants (Court members, Special Masters, etc.) noted above. Thank you for your attention and consideration.

Last Name: Hickman Organization: Virginia Press Association Locality: Richmond

The Virginia Press Association supports this bill.

Last Name: Marianne Bure Organization: Virginia Grassroots Coalition Locality: Fairfax, VA

In the last election, the new Constitutional Amendment 1 was passed with the intent of fixing the problem of partisan gerrymandering. That solution is being accomplished through the use of a citizen-led redistricting commission with participation by legislators. A goal of the Amendment was to create a system that would be completely transparent to voters and watchdogs, with public meetings to be held across Virginia, with all data and notes from the meetings being completely open to the public. This bill will bolster the transparency of the commission by requiring all meetings on redistricting in the Virginia Redistricting Commission and the Supreme Court of Virginia to be lives-treamed and recorded, whether the meetings are held virtually or in person. In addition, this bill will allow for public comment even after maps have been proposed. It also prohibits off-the-record negotiating on district selection and requires any proposed plan before the Virginia Supreme Court to have the approval of both a Democratic and a Republican special master. This legislation will not hurt or delay the commission's work in any way. By increasing public input and transparency the bill will help make the maps better.

Last Name: Riddle Organization: Virginia Education Association Locality: Richmond City

The Virginia Education Association (VEA) supports HB 2082 and we ask the committee to favorably report HB 2082. Thank you.

Last Name: Fox Organization: myself, also as a former OneVirginia2021 volunteer Locality: Alexandria

Dear committee members, I write to you as someone passionate about redistricting reform who got pulled into the OneVirginia2021 cause years ago, after reading David Daley's amazing book about gerrymandering, "RAT-XXXYYY" (can't give the full title here - anyway....) If you've read Daley's book you would know how important transparency is to redistricting reform. When lines are drawn in darkness, then the partisan forces take over and the public good is shut out. Frankly whether these meetings are open to the public is, arguably as (or maybe more important) a detail as citizens being members of the the line-drawing commission. Now that so many of us are living and working from home 24/7 and unable to go to in-person meetings because of COVID, the need for open, public meetings is all the more urgent. The public must be part of the redistricting conversation, and they will not be able to see what the commissioners are doing or leave public comment, if the meetings aren't open for all to see. Live-streaming is where technology and democracy meet, it levels the playing field, so that people who can't attend a meeting because of childcare or a demanding job can still engage in some civic participation. I urge you to give this bill your full consideration and vote YES. Abby Fox (an Alexandria resident and constituent of Del. Levine, bill patron.)

Last Name: Nawaz Organization: Virginia Democracy Forward Locality: McLean

Dear Delegate, Please support HB 2082 regarding the Virginia Redistricting Commission and transparency in the redistricting process. This bill will bolster transparency of the redistricting commission that will be established as a result of the new Constitutional Amendment 1 which passed last election. A goal of the Amendment was to create a system that would be completely transparent to voters and watchdogs, with public meetings to be held across Virginia, with all data and notes from the meetings being completely open to the public. The bill will bolster the transparency of the commission by requiring all meetings on redistricting in the Virginia Redistricting Commission and the Supreme Court of Virginia to be livestreamed and recorded, whether the meetings are held virtually or in person. In addition, this bill will allow for public comment even after maps have been proposed. It also prohibits off-the-record negotiating on district selection and requires any proposed plan before the Virginia Supreme Court to have the approval of both a Democratic and a Republican special master. Please note that this legislation will not hurt or delay the commission's work in any way. By increasing public input and transparency the bill will help make the maps better. Thank you so much for your attention.

Last Name: Jacobs Organization: Self Locality: Herndon

I wholeheartedly and free of mind and will do attest, as a full citizen, my support of this bill. We need to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact so that the chaos of the 2020 election never happens again given such a clear popular vote winner. We need to stop PSC controlled corporations from contributing to those we vote to protect us from their near monopoly power which requires them to be regulated in the first place. Indeed, we should eliminate corporate contributions to political campaigns; bring campaigns back to the middle! Also, no more spending those campaign dollars on trips to fancy beaches and mountain resorts—that’s not why we give! Let the people vote, no more discrimination of any kind and if we let them drive at 16 they should be able to vote on those laws. If they were convicted of an unjust felonious infraction, such as marijuana possession, they should not have their voting rights abdicated so they can’t vote to overturn the unjust code through voting! And we need to keep our elections free and fair and not allow firearms at the polls to intimidate voters and politicians! I voted against the marriage act because I support the LGBTQ community and also support common law marriage protections for women. We need to amend this unconstitutional and disrespectful portion of our chief document.! We should be a Souls to the Polls state and have Sunday early voting! Absentee ballots should not be considered after-thought tie-breakers. They are legitimate ballots and should be counted as they came in. What happened in Pennsylvania should never happen here! Finally, I wish to state for the record as a citizen from the fastest growing region in the Commonwealth, the region from Reston/Great Falls to Leesburg, I was aghast when I saw of the 64 names legislators chose to send to the judges, not a single one the legislators selected was from this region. This is a major flaw of this Amendment—politicians as gatekeepers! But, we have the amendment and who knows what shenanigans the folks on the board will try. This is why we need fuller transparency with every action the committee takes under public scrutiny. Thank you and I sincerely hope you will pass this bill!

End of Comments