Friday, February 15, 2008

The people be damned

I spent this morning at the meeting of the Virginia House Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections, mainly to urge passage of several bills I've been working on this year (SB 35 which makes recounts slightly meaningful, SB 292 which in its watered-down state allows some pilot audit programs, and SB 536 which strengthens the requirements for voting machine certification).

But the most contentious bill was SB 38, which calls for creating a bi-partisan commission to do the redistricting after the 2010 elections. The room was packed, with people standing in the hall outside, despite the fact that the meeting started at 7am and was not well publicized. I was encouraged by the vocal support of many different groups who frequently differ, including the League of Women Voters, AARP, Virginia 21, the Libertarian Party, the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Redistricting Coalition (a non-partisan group of political and business leaders). As has been pointed out, virtually all Virginia political leaders of both the Democratic and Republican parties from the past 20 years have come out in favor of this bill, including Governor Kaine and former governors Mark Warner, Allen, Wilder, and Baliles; US Senators Allen, John Warner, and Webb; and many others. In fact, there was only one person in the room who had anything negative to say about the bill: Delegate Chris Jones.

Unfortunately, Delegate Jones is the only one whose vote actually counted, and the bill was killed on a party line vote, without going to the floor of the house.

Washington Post coverage doesn't begin to capture the frustration in the room and in the halls afterwards.

Delegate Jones should be ashamed of himself for disgracing the people of Virginia.


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