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Tag: OneVirginia2021

Can Virginia Become a Redistricting Unicorn like Iowa?

By Aaron Barden

There was a lizard on the floor of the James City County (JCC) government building’s Board of Supervisors meeting hall on August 8th, 2017. I was there to watch the board consider OneVirginia2021’s resolution, which in most cases does little more than declare support for non-partisan redistricting. But JCC’s resolution was different. The resolution had a paragraph tacked to the end that would have changed the County’s local redistricting procedure from a citizen board with no criteria-based restrictions (preventing use of party, no incumbency protection, etc.) to a reliance on the Board’s staff to draw the lines with such restrictions. Continue reading

Defining “Compactness”: Meaningless Truism or Gerrymander Slayer?

By: Ben Williams 

This past week, an upstart election law reform organization in Virginia garnered national attention for a lawsuit that could redefine the legal strategies of anti-gerrymandering activists across the country. Per Article II, § 6 of the Virginia Constitution, “[e]very electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory…” (emphasis added). Virginia is not alone in requiring its districts to be compact—a majority of states have such a requirement. But while the word “contiguous” is easily defined (all parts of the district are connected in a single, unbroken shape), the political science community lacks a common understanding of what exactly contiguity is. As a threshold issue, there are two potential ways to measure a district’s compactness: spatially (the physical shape and area of the district) or demographically (calculating the spread of persons within a given district).  While many states do not define which of these measures should govern, or if one should be preferred over the other, the Virginia Supreme Court in Jamerson v. Womack said the language of Art. II (cited above) “clearly limits [the Article’s] meaning as definitions of spatial restrictions in the composition of electoral districts.” Thus, one of the key questions the Circuit Court judge and the attorneys in the case had to address was how to measure spatial compactness in Virginia?

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Election Law Program Alumni File Redistricting Suit

By: Emily Wagman

William & Mary Law School alumni Brian Cannon ’11 and Nick Mueller ’12 are a force in the latest round of redistricting in the state of Virginia. Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021, is leading an effort to improve fairness in the redistricting process in Virginia. OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting has filed a lawsuit challenging 11 state legislative districts in the Richmond Circuit Court. Mueller, working with the Richmond firm DurretteCrump, is one of the lead attorneys on the case. As students, both Cannon and Mueller participated in William & Mary Law School’s award-winning redistricting team during the Virginia Redistricting Competition in 2011.

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Brian Cannon ’04, J.D. ’11 Named Executive Director of OneVirginia2021 By the Election Law Program

William & Mary Law School and College of William & Mary graduate Brian Cannon recently was named executive director of OneVirginia2021: Virginians for Fair Redistricting<>, a multi-partisan effort to amend the Virginia Constitution to establish an independent, impartial redistricting commission to draw political districts. Cannon, who graduated from the Law School in 2011, was the founding editor of the State of Elections Blog<>, former student president of the Election Law Society<>, and served on William & Mary’s winning team for the Virginia Redistricting Competition<>. He also worked as a student on behalf of clients of the Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic<>, and now is a member of the clinic’s Advisory Board.

While an undergraduate at the College, Cannon co-founded the student voting advocacy group Virginia 21, the first political action committee run solely by students, and has since served on the group’s board. Prior to joining OneVirginia2021, he served as director of business development at The Fahrenheit Group.

In a press release announcing his appointment, Cannon expressed enthusiasm for OneVirginia2021’s mission. “Fixing our broken redistricting process is the most important thing we can do for the health of Virginia’s democracy,” he said. “The momentum for reform is building and the time is right to do it now. I am excited to have the opportunity to lead the broad-based movement that is OneVirginia2021 and help make this happen. My experiences in nonpartisan issue advocacy with the addition of my legal background and experience in election law give me confidence that we can do this.”

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