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November 11, 2019

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Seek Ye First The Political Kingdom: The analytics of redistricting

In today's political climate we've come to realize that razor thin margins often mean the difference between favorable changes in legislation and the continuation of unjust laws concerning the plight of incarcerated men and women in the state of Virginia. Although there appears to be severe stagnation concerning local politics  and elections we face an equally daunting task of overcoming the gerrymandering of districts that have prevented the injection of progressive thinkers in General Assembly. Oftentimes we see men and women of past generations applying outdated standards and norms to modern concerns.For instance the failure of many to recognize sociological influences that contribute to criminality. In any event, the primary reason that this failing representation continues to exist is because of district lines that were drawn to favor the continuation of biased representation decade after decade.With lawsuits abound it is obvious that redistricting is a must in order to ensure fairness in the political sphere of our state.

The basic definition of "gerrymandering" is the manipulation of district lines for political advantage and the party that is in power tends to control how and where lines are drawn.  Equally important is the fact that although "gerrymandering" itself is not illegal or unconstitutional, "racial gerrymandering" is clearly illegal and unconstitutional. With the election cycle approaching in November I felt it necessary to offer a brief overview on this concept of "redistricting" or "gerrymandering." The requirements for redistricting are based on Article 1, section 2 of The U.S. Constitution and Article II,section 6 of the Constitution of Virginia which reads in part that the General Assembly shall reapportion the Commonwealth into electoral districts in accordance with this section in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter. Equally important is the history of the word "gerrymandering." The word itself derives from the name of Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. A bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature in 1812 divided the state into districts for the election of state senators. This division grouped together certain counties that had large federalist majorities.In this way, the Federalist could only win a few seats in the legislature by huge majorities, while their opponents could only win more seats by small majorities.  One of the new districts had a shape that looker similar to a salamander and one man suggested that it should be called a "gerrymander." Now there are three basic forms of "gerrymandering" which are cracking, stacking and packing. Cracking occurs when a significant minority population is dispersed across several districts to dilute its voting strength.Stacking occurs when a large portion of minorities are placed in a district where a much larger majority can still control the district. Finally, packing occurs when minority districts are created. As I alluded to earlier, packing itself with regards to minorities has not been deemed unconstitutional. Although some of the earliest modern conceptions of "racial gerrymandering" were engineered to inhibit the black vote,today it has proven itself to be broader than ever crossing ethnic and socioeconomic lines. Today we see larger groups of poor,working class people becoming disenfranchised. For instance, in the case of Personhuballah v. Alcorn.,155 F.Supp.3d 552 the U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Virginia, Richmond twice found Virginia's third congressional district to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymandering, in violation of the Equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment of The United States Constitution.  In the case of Black Political Task Force v. Galvin (2004 DC Mass) 300 F.Supp.2d 291, State legislators calculated manipulation of three voter districts with reengineering associated with an amendment to ensure that certain incumbents could retain their seats and the regressive nature of the state's enacted redistricting plan collectively exhibited a willingness on the part of the state House of Representatives to use race as proxy in achieving incumbency protection: that evidence weighed heavily in favor of minority voter advocacy groups in consideration of the totality of circumstances. This power struggle in the form of racial / ethnic gerrymandering is the driving force behind legislative and social policy inequalities. Although the legal challenge concerning "racial/ethnic gerrymandering" has not been presented on behalf of other minority groups such as women, LGBTQ, Hispanics and the working class poor. I believe that eventually one or all of these groups will present themselves to be a formidable interest group that will usher in a progressive body of legislators on the state level. For the prisoner this change could be significant in the sense that progressive thinkers are the result of oppressed classes of people, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity and they tend to have a consciousness of the redemptive nature of man and the need to do away with antiquated norms and values. Outdated social policies derive from digressive ideas.  So much of what has produced the incarcerated person is amenable to change like substance abuse, criminal peer associations,antisocial values and self esteem issues. By redrawing the district lines we are establishing new and more diverse blocs of voters that will inevitably produce a vanguard of new legislators that recognize a second chance at life in society for prisoners is not merely a dream but a legitimate possibility and we the incarcerated can steer young men and women away from a life of crime towards a greater quality of life that does not include living behind bars. Seek ye first the political kingdom and all else will be added unto you.

 

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