Virginia voters are overwhelmingly in favor of amending the state constitution to transfer the power to draw legislative districts from the General Assembly to an independent commission of citizens. Nearly 4 out of 5 voters support the commission defined in a Constitutional Amendment proposed by a bipartisan committee of former lawmakers and election law experts, according to a poll released Dec. 5 by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University. The committee that drafted the proposed amendment was assembled by OneVirginia2021.
Overall, 78 percent of the voters polled favor an amendment to create an independent redistricting commission, with 17 percent opposed. Support tops 70 percent across political parties, gender, race, age and region. Republican voters support it, 73 percent to 20 percent. Democrats support it, 88 percent to 10 percent. Support is highest in Southside/Southwest (81 percent), but nearly that high in Hampton Roads (80 percent), the Richmond area (77 percent) and Northern Virginia (75 percent).
The Wason Center also broke down the results according to the House of Delegates and Senate districts of the voters who were polled. Voters in Republican-held House districts support creating an independent Redistricting Commission 77 percent to 17 percent. Voters in Democratic-held House districts match that support, 77 percent to 16 percent. Support across Senate districts is similarly lop-sided.
The proposed amendment, which has bipartisan patrons in the upcoming 2019 session of the General Assembly, defines a process for selecting a Citizens Redistricting Commission of 3 Republicans, 3 Democrats and 4 independent voters. The amendment also defines fair criteria by which the commission would draw new legislative districts, such as not favoring any party or candidate, not abridging minority voters’ choice, and respecting city and county boundaries as much as possible.
The Wason Center also surveyed Virginia voters’ familiarity with the current process of redistricting. Overall, 58 percent said they are familiar with how districts are drawn today. That number has risen steadily in the annual Wason Center issues survey since 2015, when 47 percent of voters said they were familiar with the redistricting process.
Here are the survey question and results on the amendment proposal, including cross-tabs by party, demographic and region.
Q14: There is a proposal to amend Virginia’s constitution to establish an independent redistricting commission made up of qualified citizen volunteers, including Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. This commission, not legislators, would be responsible for drawing new district boundaries. Would you [RANDOMIZE: “support” or “oppose”] this proposal?
The Wason Center conducted 841 interviews of registered Virginia voters, including 294 on landline and 547 on cell phone, Nov. 14-30. The survey’s overall margin of error is +/- 3.7%. Subgroups are higher. The full survey is available at https://t.co/oxjephT7jb.