These are sad days for the American experiment with democratic government--which in theory delivers government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Polls show that Virginians and Americans in general have lost faith in politicians at just about every level. Worse, to a frightening extent, the people’s distrust is reflected in their low levels of participation in discussion of public policy matters, in the processes of selecting candidates to run for public office, and in elections to choose those who will govern. This widespread failure of trust and lack of interest among our citizens in the political process doom the United States to continued decline and loss of respect around the world.
The election of a Donald Trump as President is one obvious product of systemic failure.
Over 90 million citizens eligible to vote in 2016 did NOT vote. Trump won with votes of just 28 percent of those eligible to vote. Worse yet in terms of voter participation are the elections for members of Congress. While voter participation in presidential elections has averaged 55 percent in recent elections, participation of 40 percent is more typical for congressional elections…i.e., roughly 60 percent of Americans do not bother to vote for their representative in Congress.
In the latter case, one can make a stronger argument for not making that arduous journey to one’s local polling place, digging out the various IDs, and marking an X by your selection. Pardon my sarcasm here, but because of widespread gerrymandering in drawing up congressional district boundaries in Virginia and in most other states, the vast majority of congressional contests are so tilted in favor of the incumbents that they are rarely actual contests. A recent estimate is that only a handful of upcoming congressional elections are likely to be competitive—three percent to be precise.
The way it works is that the state legislature draws districts so as to include safe majorities of voters of the incumbent’s party or the majority party to the maximum extent. That is, the incumbent and his/her party actually pick their voters. Thus, while a majority of Virginians voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections, Republican legislators drew districts heavy with their voters and captured seven of eleven seats in Congress. I hasten to add that Democrats did prettymuch the same thing when they controlled the legislature.
There are citizens in Reston and elsewhere in Virginia working to change this corrupt process in time for the redistricting following the 2020 national census. Needless to say, it is an uphill battle. However, there are indications of a swelling 'fed-upness' among would-be voters that gives one hope. Some leading Republicans, including State Senator Jill Vogel, the Republican candidate for Lt. Governor, believe it is time to stop creating “...districts where the election is irrelevant.”
She and others say the key is for constituents to lobby hard their own legislators to take redistricting out of the hands of the politicians and put it in the hands of a technical, nonpartisan body. To find out more and get involved in the campaign to take back our democracy, contact OneVirginia2021.org
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