RICHMOND, VA, 29 APRIL 2019: Despite having passed the General Assembly with bipartisan majorities for two consecutive years, Governor Ralph S. Northam (D) has vetoed Senator David R. Suetterlein’s (R-Roanoke County) anti-gerrymandering legislation, Senate Bill 1579, for the second year in a row.
“Although he proclaimed his support for an end to gerrymandering as a candidate, Governor Northam has once again put partisanship first by vetoing the only anti-gerrymandering bill to cross his desk,” Senator Suetterlein declared. “He could have joined the bipartisan effort to create a real compactness standard for congressional and state legislative districts, but instead chose a course that will needlessly divide communities into tortuously drawn districts.”
Senate Bill 1579 (SB 1579) would have required congressional and state legislative districts be geographically compact, prohibiting oddly shaped or contorted boundaries unless justified because the district adheres to political subdivision lines. SB 1579 also requires districts be drawn in accordance with the requirements of federal and state laws, and judicial decisions interpreting such laws, addressing racial and ethnic fairness, including the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and the provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“The district I serve has eight great localities, but only two are wholly in the district and several towns are also needlessly split,” Suetterlein noted. “This bill would have ensured future districts are compact, serving the citizens rather than temporary political goals.
“When it comes to ending partisan gerrymanders, Governor Northam’s actions continue to contradict his rhetoric. Despite bemoaning gerrymandering on the campaign trail, his actions preserve it. As a member of the Senate, Ralph Northam voted for the tortuous lines we have now. Now as Governor, for the second year in a row, he has put party above people.”
All Republican legislators were joined by Senators J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and Lionell Spruill, Sr. (D-Chesapeake) and Delegates Karrie K. Delaney (D-Fairfax County) and David A. Reid (D-Loudoun) in passing SB1579 this year. In 2018, forty-two Democrats, including all but two members of the large freshman class, voted for Suetterlein's Senate Bill 106 to end gerrymandering in Virginia, which Northam vetoed last year.