Poll: Voters strongly support change to how Virginia draws districts

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — A poll released on Wednesday indicated strong support among Virginians for a constitutional amendment to transfer the responsibility of drawing state districts from the General Assembly to an independent commission.

While more than 70 percent of Virginia voters who responded said there needs to a change to the process overall, nearly 80 percent backed the appointment of a board made of Republican, Democratic and Independent volunteers.

The poll was conducted by Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy.

Dr. Bob Roberts, a James Madison University politics professor, said state lawmakers have been accused of disenfranchising certain groups of voters.

He used Virginia's 6th Congressional District, where State Del. Ben Cline won easily in November, as an example.

"The general election meant nothing, because you have such a huge number of conservative voters in the 6th District, no Democrat has a chance of winning," Dr. Roberts said.

In a notable case, state lawmakers were ordered earlier this year to redraw 11 House of Delegates districts which a court ruled were unconstitutionally gerrymandered.

The court found that Republican legislators packed large numbers of African-American voters into a small number of districts, diluting their influence in surrounding districts.

Dr. Bob Roberts said Republicans will face a more challenging playing field in the coming years.

"The state now is moving from purple to blue if you look at election after election after election," he said.

The group OneVirginia2021 has advocated for an independent redistricting commission to be in place by the time district boundaries are reconsidered after the 2020 census.

The Wason Center poll also found that the majority of Virginia voters support legalizing sports betting and casinos, support ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment in 2019, approve of Gov. Ralph Northam, and disapprove of President Donald Trump.