Friday, May 26, 2017

Politics

A new report has called into question whether President Trump would have actually won Wisconsin during the 2016 presidential election without the state’s strict voter ID law.

The study published by the progressive advocacy group Priorities USA says the law suppressed the votes of more than 200,000 residents – the majority of whom were African-American and Democratic-leaning. President Trump won only about 23,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin.

In a recent interview in Democracy Now! Ari Berman, senior contributing writer for The Nation, where he covers voting rights, said, “I wrote about this study this week. And what they found was that, overall, turnout increased by 1.3 percent in 2016 over 2012. But states that adopted strict voter ID laws, turnout dropped by 1.7 percent.”

Berman added, “And it dropped in Wisconsin by 3.3 percent, so much greater decrease than the national turnout increase. And what they found, this study, was that 200,000 more people would have voted in Wisconsin if not for their strict voter ID law. Trump only won the state by 23,000 votes. The largest drop-off was among Black and Democratic-leaning voters.”

Berman continued, “So they not only compared Wisconsin to other states, they compared it to states like Minnesota right next door, which have similar demographics and turnout rates, and they found that there was a much larger drop-off in Wisconsin than Minnesota, which does not have a voter ID law, that counties with a large African-American population had a larger drop-off. So this is yet another study showing that voter ID laws suppress the vote.”

Berman said, “And my feeling is, these laws are bad regardless of if they impact an election, because we’re making it harder to vote for no reason. But in Wisconsin, we have a very clear case study that this law impacted the final results of the presidential election.”

You can read the new report at: https://www.scribd.com/document/347821649/Priorities-USA-Voter-Suppression-Memo.

In a rare display of bipartisanship in Congress, the United States House of Representatives voted to establish a commission to examine 400 years of African-American history.

House bill H.R. 1242 is designed “to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the House and Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it’s waiting to be passed.
According to Washington insiders, the bill will most likely pass by unanimous consent in the Senate.

Once the bill known as the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act,” or H.R. 1242 in the House, passes Congress, it will land on President Donald Trump’s desk.

If H.R. 1242 becomes law, the resulting commission would consist of 15 members, who would serve without pay. The legislation would authorize the commission to create grants to communities, non-profits and other groups to hold events that would commemorate the anniversary of slaves arriving in the U.S. The commission could hire staff and also accept volunteers to perform its mission. The commission would be required to submit a report to Congress and terminate in July of 2020.

In a statement about the bill last year, Kaine said that he’s been lucky to be a part of federal commissions that have been formed to study and celebrate English and Hispanic history.

“Well, if English lives matter, if Latino lives matter, then African-American lives matter and they’ve mattered every day since the landing of those ‘20 and odd’ African-Americans at Point Comfort, Virginia,” said Kaine.

In late March, the Congressional Budget Office estimated, “that implementing the bill would cost about $2 million a year – a total of $6 million over the 2018-2021 period.”
In a floor statement about the bill last summer, Rep. Bobby Scott said that African-Americans have contributed greatly to the United States and their achievements deserve to be celebrated.

“The history of Virginia and our nation cannot be fully understood without recognizing the role played by the slave trade,” said Scott. “Slavery was an abhorrent institution; but for hundreds of years, it was the foundation of the colonial and early American agricultural system and was essential to its economic sustainability.”

Scott continued: “The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act will be instrumental in recognizing and highlighting the resilience and contributions of African-Americans since 1619. From slavery, to fighting in the Civil War, to working against the oppression of Jim Crow segregation, to the civil rights movement, the rich history of African-Americans and their contributions to our Nation began hundreds of years ago but obviously does not end there.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a speaker, writer and political analyst. She appears on “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin every Monday. Connect with Lauren at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

JACKSONVILLE, FL
Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown was recently found guilty in Jacksonville of taking money from a charity that allegedly gave scholarships to poor students.

Brown, 70, was convicted of 18 of the 22 charges against her, including lying on her taxes and her congressional financial disclosure forms. Brown, a Democrat who represented the Florida district that included Jacksonville since 1993, had pleaded not guilty to all of the charges, including fraud. She lost re-election last fall after her indictment.

According to news reports, when the judge read each verdict she showed no visible reaction.

Brown’s former chief of staff, Elias “Ronnie” Simmons, and the charity’s president pleaded guilty after their federal indictments for misusing the charity’s funds, and testified against Brown.

Federal prosecutors said Brown and her associates used a charity called One Door for Education to bring in more than $800,000 between 2012 and 2016. Brown’s indictment said the Virginia-based One Door only gave out one scholarship for $1,200 to an unidentified person in Florida.

Simmons said Brown ordered him to take cash and checks from One Door’s account. On dozens of occasions, Simmons said he was told to take out of One Door’s account the maximum $800 from an ATM near his house and deposit hundreds of it in Brown’s personal account. Sometimes he kept some for himself.

Brown testified in her own defense, saying she was left in the dark about the goings-on with One Door’s money, and blamed the theft on Simmons.

Brown said she left those details to Simmons and other hired staffers, and said she should have paid more attention to her personal and professional finances.

WASHINGTON
President Donald Trump’s recent proposed budget reduction for Historically Black Colleges and Universities was met with this statement from Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04).

“When during the campaign, the president repeatedly asked the African-American community what do we have to lose, clearly one answer was funding for the historically supportive and important institutions and colleges in our community. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have provided low-income and first generation college students and their families with a high-quality education for almost 200 years. Once again, the president has reneged on a promise and is not providing these historical institutions with the fiscal resources that they need to continue serving our communities.

“Recently, when the president invited HBCU presidents to the White House for a meeting many hoped –including me –  that would result in increased funding for our HBCU institutions.
We now know that it resulted in a decrease masked as maintaining the level of spending.

“As the alumnus of an HBCU (Virginia Union University) and the representative of a congressional district that is home to two HBCUs and neighbors another district home to two more HBCUs, I am alarmed by the message that was sent to these treasured institutions. These institutions have an important impact for many young people in my district and in Virginia.

“I call on this Administration to allocate more funding for HBCUs instead of providing taxpayer dollars for a racially charged border wall. The budget states that it protects support for HBCUs and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), while suggesting a decrease in spending, cancelling $3.9 billion for Pell Grants funding, and reducing Federal Work-Study funding.

“I look forward to my upcoming conversations with HBCUs during the Congressional Black Caucus College Tour. I will ask them directly about their needs at the federal level to best serve our students. I believe that these nationwide conversations between CBC Members and HBCU leaders will be an important information source so that funding can be appropriately allocated.

“Our HBCUs should be empowered to meet the needs of this underserved population. Once again, this budget does not make America great again.”

If the Republican-backed Affordable Health Care Act  (AHCA) is passed, millions of Americans currently enrolled in Obamacare would lose their  insurance and see fewer benefits and higher costs, especially if you are poor and working class.

Research by the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (CIFA) says thousands of Virginia’s  poorest and vulnerable residents  currently covered by the ACA or  Obamacare, will be harmed by the proposed new health plan which is designed  to replace the current ACA.

Last week the Congressional Budget Office released a report stating that 24 million fewer people would have coverage within a decade and the level of the uninsured would jump 14 million next year,  if the GOP’s health care  blueprint is put in place by then.

In Virginia  according to CIFA policy analyst Michael Cassidy, 31 percent  or more  of the 327,000 people covered by the ACA in Virginia would lose their coverage under the Republican plan.

“The impact will be significant,” said Cassidy. “It is to safe to characterize it that way because thousands of Virginians  are at risk … it will be like a tidal wave.”

The proposed AHCA removes the individual  and employer mandates and reduces the tax credits and subsidies that poor and working class people use to buy insurance under the current ACA in the Virginia.

One of the most hated part of the ACA was the  individual mandate to force people to buy insurance or pay a penalty via the tax system. Using  slight-of-hand,  the GOP’s AHCA will impose a penalty of a 30 percent surcharge  if you  drop insurance and  seek to reacquire it.

Healthcare advocates call it a “bait and switch” tactic the Republicans have not fully explained to supporters of their efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare with Trumpcare.

Now 319,000 people use a tax credit in Virginia under the ACA, based on their income, to acquire healthcare insurance.

The ACHA would use age. The older you, are the higher it will be.

The ACA restricts charging older people more for coverage. The plan the Republicans will be voting in the House this week, would allow healthcare insurance companies to charge older adults up to five times what they charge younger people.  The ACA  barred the companies from charging more than three times.

Under the ACA,  insurance companies had to use profits to directly cover  their clients instead of using it for operating cost, notably high salaries. That rule would die under the AHCA.

Gaylene Kanoyton has  organized educational forums on the ACA over the past four years and Celebrate Healthcare  program to  enroll people in  Hampton Roads.

To date, Celebrate Healthcare has enrolled over 15,000 and educated over 25,000-plus citizens.

Kanoyton said that despite the quickness in which the ACHA has been pushed through the current U.S. House of Representatives it is not sure if it will be  passed as it stands now,
She said there will be an open  enrollment period for the ACA starting November 1, despite the current push to pass the AHCA.

“Even if it does passes, nothing will change  immediately,” said Kanoyton. “It took them three years to get the Affordable Care Act up and running. There would be at least that length of time for the Republicans to set up administration enrollment process and policies.

Plus we are not sure how many of the GOP plan will become reality. Now is too early.”

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter

TriceEdneyWire.com/Global Information Network
A revised travel ban by the Trump administration is already in trouble with a leading aid agency, with the travel industry, and with the Nigerian government which has urged its citizens to postpone making trips to the U.S. without “compelling or essential reasons.”

The new travel ban, which still targets majority-Muslim countries, slightly modifies an earlier order that sparked chaos at airports across the country as travelers – even those with green cards – were denied entry by local officers.

One of the harsher critics of the new ban, the head of the NY-based International Rescue Committee, labeled it an “historic assault on refugee resettlement to the United States, and a really catastrophic cut at a time there are more refugees around the world than ever before.”

“There is no national security justification for this ‘catastrophic’ cut in refugee admissions,” declared David Miliband, adding that the ban singles out „the most vulnerable, most vetted population that is entering the United States.“

The IRC provides humanitarian aid in five African countries, six Middle Eastern countries, six Asian countries, three European countries, and 22 cities in the U.S.

Trump’s latest order suspends the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, though refugees already formally scheduled for travel by the State Department will be allowed entry. When the suspension is lifted, the number of refugees allowed into the U.S. will be capped at 50,000 for fiscal year 2017.

But the new and higher bars to entry to the U.S. have the tourism industry biting its nails. Travel analytics firm ForwardKeys tallied the fall-off in major tourism-dependent U.S. cities as 6.5 percent in the eight days after President Donald Trump’s initial travel ban was announced on Jan. 27th.

In New York City, analysts foresee some 300,000 fewer visitors from abroad this year than in 2016, a 2.1 percent dip. It’s the first time for such a fall-off since 2008, says NYC & Company, New York’s tourism arm.

Even some African countries are sounding the alarm. In Nigeria, for example, special presidential adviser Abike Dabiri-Erewa, urged Nigerians to consider postponing visits to the U.S.

“In the last few weeks, the office has received a few cases of Nigerians with valid multiple-entry U.S. visas being denied entry and sent back to Nigeria,” she said. “In such cases, affected persons were sent back immediately on the next available flight and their visas were cancelled.”

Planned trips should be delayed, she advised, barring compelling or essential reasons, until there is clarity on the new immigration policy from Washington.

The latest action by the Trump administration could spell trouble for the 2.1 million African immigrants living in the U.S., 327,000 of whom were born in Nigeria, according to the Pew Research Center, published in February.

By Jesse Jackson
(TriceEdneyWire.com)

President Donald Trump’s most recent provocation – suddenly issuing an order banning the admission into the United States of refugees and immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries – created chaos and fury that had to be expected.

Airports across the world were engulfed with demonstrators. Judges issued emergency orders staying enforcement of parts of the order. Families found their children studying abroad unable to return home, or their loved ones attending a funeral stranded in an airport. Translators who had risked their lives for American soldiers in Iraq suddenly found their green cards useless and their lives at great risk. Both intelligence professionals and State Department diplomats have protested the order.

Trump clearly revels in this chaos. He proves to his voters that he’ll fulfill his campaign promises, despite opposition. He shows them that he’s getting things done. He postures strong on securing Americans against foreign terrorists. He defines his opponents as bleeding heart liberals, more concerned about rights than security, more internationalist than nationalist. He views this all as a win.

Trump’s act is based on a lie: that America is not careful in vetting those refugees from battle zones that seek refuge in our country from violence or persecution. In fact, our vetting is already among the most stringent in the world. Trump told the Christian Broadcasting Network that Christians would be given preference over other religious groups, asserting falsely that under Obama, “If you were a Muslim you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible.”

In fact, last year we admitted virtually as many Christian refugees as Muslims, despite the fact that far more Muslims are at risk and seeking refuge. But this president has shown that he’s prepared to act on the basis of “alternative facts” when he so chooses.

The real problem is that the unintended consequences are likely to be far more dangerous than doing nothing. For ISIS and al-Qaida, the order is gift. It feeds their argument that the Muslim world is facing a war on Islam led by the Great Satan (the U.S.) intent on persecuting Muslims.

The anger and hatred generated will make it more difficult for moderate Muslim leaders to cooperate with the U.S. At home, a Muslim community under siege – and faced with rising hate crimes – is likely to become more closed, not less, and less cooperative, not more. If we will not respect their rights and security, they will be less likely to be concerned for ours.

Across the world, the order reveals an America that is frightened, not strong, and insular, not expansive. Trump has just mocked his own argument that our allies should bear a fair share of the defense burden, for he’s made it clear the U.S. will not do its part in offering refuge to the displaced – many of them driven from their homes by wars that we started or continue. And America’s claim to be a champion of human rights has just been weakened by our own actions once more.

The irony here is that Trump gets the threat wrong. Seven countries were singled out for special prohibition – a ban on all travelers, not just refugees for 90 days, visa or no visa. Not one person from those countries has killed any Americans in a terrorist attack inside the U.S. The perpetrators of American terrorist attacks in Boston, San Bernardino, Calif., Fort Hood in Texas, and Orlando, Fla. – did not come from the countries banned, and all were radicalized homegrown individuals.

Similarly, the hijackers of 9/11 did not come from the countries that are banned. They came from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon, none of which are on the list.

There must be some other reason than terrorist threat for the selection. It may not simply be coincidental that the countries listed for bans are those where Trump’s company does no business, while the nations from which the 9/11 attackers came – and yet are exempted – are places where Trump has done or tried to do business.

Democrats have said they would try to get the order rescinded for its trampling of human rights, its lack of preparation and confused definitions. The real question is whether Republicans embrace this action or make their opposition known. Trump is happy to mock Democrats. His aides know that he has to learn to work with Republicans who control majorities in both houses of Congress.

Thus far, Republicans such as Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake have risked Trump’s wrath by objecting to the order. It is revealing that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell chose to duck – saying the courts would decide whether the order is constitutional –while House Speaker Paul Ryan chose to embrace the order rather than criticize it. These are not profiles in courage.

By Freddie Allen
(Managing Editor, NNPA Newswire)

Rev. William Barber, the president of the North Carolina state chapter of the NAACP and leader of the Moral Mondays movement, delivered a rousing keynote address to open the 2017 Mid-Winter Conference of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA).

The theme of the conference was “Strengthening Black-owned Newspapers through Training, Innovation and Technology.” The NNPA partnered with General Motors, Chevrolet, Ford Motor Company, Reynolds American Inc. (RAI), and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to host the conference; Volkswagen, Ascension, Coca-Cola, and the American Association for Cancer Research supported the event as sponsors.

During his speech titled, “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” Barber tackled voter suppression in the aftermath of Shelby v. Holder, White evangelicalism and the current political environment in the age of “alternative facts.”

Noting that President Woodrow Wilson played the White supremacist propaganda film “Birth of a Nation” in the Oval office in 1911, Barber said that Trump’s ascension and election is not an anomaly in American history.

“This is not the first time that White supremacy has occupied The White House. This is not the first time that America has elected a racist egomaniac,” said Barber, reminding the audience that President Wilson, a former college president, played “Birth” to signal that Reconstruction was over. “Education doesn’t necessarily get racism out of you.”

To a chorus of “Amens,” Barber said that the one thing that we have to first decide to do in this moment is that bowing down is not an option.

Recognizing that he was addressing a room full of journalists and publishers, Barber pitched ideas for a number of articles and commentaries.

“Somebody has to unpack ‘so-called’ White evangelicalism that is illogical malpractice and heresy,” said Barber. “We’ve got to have some papers that write and do some investigative work to connect the money to White evangelicalism to the policies of extremism and racism, because some of our own folk are sending money to some of these TV White evangelicals.”

Barber said that the loss of the full protections of the Voting Rights Act and voter suppression were two of the most underreported stories during the last election cycle.

“Long before any Russian hack, the American electoral process was hacked by systemic racism and fear,” said Barber. “The Southern Strategy is alive and well.”

Barber acknowledged that civil rights leaders and Democrats could have voiced louder criticism about the lack of work done in the U.S. Congress to restore the Voting Rights Act.

“Democrats talked more about David Dukes than they did about voter suppression and the Voting Rights Act being dismantled,” said Barber.

Barber said that there were 868 fewer voting places across the nation; those closures disproportionately affected Black voters.

“Voter suppression has been proven, voter fraud has been disproven. The lie about voter fraud is a distraction from the truth about voter suppression, because voter suppression is about thievery. You scratch a liar, you’ll find a thief,” said Barber. “Trump won because of the voter suppression that went on in the Black community.”

After delivering a brief history of fusion politics, a time when poor Whites and Blacks worked together to achieve political power in the South following the Civil War, Barber questioned why so many poor, White people today cast votes for lawmakers that oppose establishing living wage standards, better healthcare and more educational opportunities for low-income families.

The North Carolina pastor noted that there are 18.9 poor White people in the United States, about eight million more than the number of poor Black people, though Black people experience poverty at higher rates than Whites.

Barber said that exploring the real reasons why so many poor Whites vote against their own self-interest, would make for a great investigative report.

Returning to the theme that today’s political environment in America is nothing new, Barber told the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who he described as “three millennials from the Bible days,” that liked to write and Nebuchadnezzar, “a maniacal egomaniac who loved to tweet out his own news,” loved to build towers and invited people to come to his towers to bow down.

When Nebuchadnezzar commanded that everyone bow down to his image and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused, the king threatened to throw them into the furnace.

“He didn’t know they already had a fire. They came from people who had been through the fire,” said Barber. “They remembered how the Lord had dealt with pharaoh. They remembered how David dealt with Goliath.”

Barber said that the three young leaders had a fire in them, because they sang the songs of their ancestors.

“Can we just make a decision, Black folks? Can we just make a decision, publishers? Can we just make a decision, civil rights…that bowing down is not an option?” Barber implored.

“I gotta suspicion that it’s going be some fiery times. I gotta suspicion that it’s gonna get hot. I gotta suspicion that Nebuchadnezzar is gonna do some rough stuff.”

Barber implored the publishers, journalists and activists in the room to go into the proverbial fire standing up, because help won’t come, if you go in the fire bowing down.

“If you go in the fire standing up, God can transform the fire and the same fire that was meant to destroy you, can become a fire of deliverance!” Barber shouted.

The crowd roared, delivering Barber a standing ovation. The Moral Mondays leader continued:

“Bowing down is not an option! Standing down is not an option! Looking down is not an option! Breaking down is not an option! We’ve been through worse before.” Barber exclaimed. “We’ve been through slavery. We’ve been through Jim Crow. We’ve been through the Trail of Tears and we’re gonna stand up in this moment!”

The next day at the conference, Barber committed to writing a regular guest column for the NNPA Newswire that will be distributed throughout the NNPA’s network of 211 Black-owned media properties and will reach an estimated 20 million readers in print and online.

“Somebody has to write from the perspective of crisis, even if the crisis doesn’t end immediately,” Barber explained. “Somebody has to make sure that there is a witness that [the Black Press] didn’t go along with it. So we have to do that.”

By Jim Clingman

Editor’s Note:
After a meeting between Bob Johnson and Donald Trump before he was sworn into office, Johnson wrote a press release and did several interviews to disclose the particulars of that meeting. Part one of his interview with Jim Clingman appeared in last week’s New Journal and Guide.

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Bob: Let’s form the Permanent Interest Party and that party will represent Black voters and that’s the way we engage this divided nation because White America is divided.  On one side you have people who call themselves Republicans and on the other side you have the Democrats.  But they are predominately the White ruling class in America. And they are divided.

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Bob: The only thing that we aren’t divided against is our ability to vote.  So we have to take the one asset we have that we know that we can manipulate and control with our own interests is that to vote.  But a vote without a direct ideology or philosophy is not going to be magnified at its highest level of impact.
Jim: Let me ask you this, based upon everything you said, can I assume you believe Black people should register as “no party affiliated” as we move forward to develop an independent party.
Bob: Yes.  I believe for Black Americans to remain in one or the other party group is not in our long term best interests … I believe, whether it happens in my lifetime or whether it happens after that, at some point Black Americans will come to the realization that at 45 million people and growing, in a divided country, and rising populations in other minority groups greater than us in voter power and probably economics, we must form our own political power base for the sole purpose of promoting our permanent interest … That’s  a very important move I believe Black people should make.
Jim: Ok, let’s shift a little bit to economics. You are a business man. I know that’s high on your agenda and do you believe that  when it’s all said and done, economics really controls politics?
Bob: We are and have been founded as a free market democratic society.  Ownership is a paramount right in the United States.  And from ownership comes the right to use your wealth in any way you wish.  And from that comes economic power. And economic power manifests itself in political power because campaigns run on money. They run on ideas but they run on money to get those ideas conveyed.

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Bob:  Black Americans have tremendous aggregate income, around $1.2 trillion now, and in that power, in that wealth there’s more than enough money to fund a political party, particularly a political party that’s already united in its interest and therefore already more than likely to vote as a bloc. You don’t have to convince us to vote as a bloc, we do it anyway.

◆◆◆

Bob: So when you look at that and how this nation works, if ownership and access to wealth and the right to do with it as you please, then that also translates into your right to use it for your own political interests and your own political well being and your own socioeconomic wellbeing. So, yes, those things would follow. Black Economic power strengthens our political power, and political power would help enhance Black economic power.

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Bob: I mean we could take some ideas from the Democratic Party and some from the Republican Party. But they would be our issues and we would be voting for our interests and our candidates to espouse those issues and promote those issues.  We don’t have a monopoly on the best ideas; neither does either party.  So clearly we could argue things that are in our best interest and vote accordingly and use our vote as a balance of power in a divided nation to focus on our interests.  It’s as simple as that.
Jim: I’m constantly amazed that all of the, like you said, dollars we have as well as the organizations we have with so many members. Yet we’re not adopting and we have not adopted the principles that you have espoused.  But that speaks to me something Harold Cruse called “Non-economic liberalism.”
We’re so stuck in this non-economic piece.  We don’t get our economics right in order to make a meaningful foray into the political arena, and that’s the direction our people really need to go.
Bob:  Yeah, that’s the thing.
Robert Louis “Bob” Johnson is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and investor. He is best known as founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), which was sold to Viacom in 2001.

By Leonard E. Colvin
Chief Reporter
New Journal and Guide

Lawmakers use the U.S. Census 10-year head counts to determine  the boundaries of local,  state and U.S. Congressional voting districts representing thousands of voters who elected them to office.

It’s called redistricting. But, some see the process as subject to gerrymandering because it is controlled by the state legislature, and the political party in control of the legislature has a political advantage.

In Virginia, since the mid-1990s the Republican Party has controlled  the redistricting process. Today the GOP owns a 66-34 majority in the House of Delegates and a slender one in the Senate 21-19.

This is typical across the South. The Republican party has invested funds and rhetoric into drawing borders for voting that have sought to make White Democrats extinct in the U.S. House, Senate  and state legislatures.

Currently there are 32 GOP-controlled state legislatures compared to 12 for Democrats and six which are split.

In Virginian, Republicans control seven of the 11 U.S. House Districts.

The GOP party lost one of the seats when a federal court redrew  the 4th Congressional District. A suit filed by Black voters claimed  it had been racially gerrymandered to give an advantage to White Republicans.

That suit allowed Democrat Donald McEachin to now represent the 4th District in the newly convened U.S. House of Representatives.

Unless state Democrats mount a successful run to reduce or overcome the GOP dominance in the 2017 and further elections, their rivals will control the process in 2021 and their erosion of power will increase.

But a counter campaign  which has considerable bi-partisan support is gathering steam to create a state non-partisan  commission to redistrict the political voting districts.

Recently, Hampton Roads Mayors Kenneth C. Alexander of Norfolk and Will Sessoms of Virginia Beach hosted a community forum entitled “Gerryrigged” at Virginia Wesleyan College with the redistricting advocacy group, OneVirginia2021, to demonstrate support for the campaign.

“I participated in the process that enabled legislators to help draw their own districts…(choosing)  who gets to vote for them,” said Mayor Alexander who is a former state Senator. “Even  with the best intentions, we were apt  to draw those lines for political benefit. I better understand this now so that’s why I’ve joined the movement.”

Brian Cannon is the Executive Director of OneVirginia2021.

“People want to know why the system is not serving them well  so far as ethics or issues,” said Cannon.  “Hopefully the legislators will see the growing support  for these reforms and take action to  create a fairer system.”

For the past two and half decades, proposals have been submitted during the Virginia General Assembly session to achieve that goal. But each time the legislation is aborted and not even given a potentially life-saving vote in either house of the legislature, Despite pressure being brought to bear by this new campaign during this legislative session, similar legislation may meet the same fate.

In 1992,  Democratic State Delegate Kenneth R. Plum of Reston, sponsored one of the first bills to take the process of redistricting out of the hands of his colleagues,
Instead, Plum’s and other bills sponsored by his colleagues promoting this idea have died in committee.

Delegate Plum hopes this will be the year that lawmakers will adopt his bill,  creating a non-partisan commission, a third group that is  not connected with either the Democrats or Republicans.

If successful, redistricting in 2021 will not be done to  ensure the incumbency of  Democratic or Republican lawmakers and thus giving one party control over the legislative future of the state.

“It’s had such strong support from both sides of the aisle over the years,” said Plum.

“People  from both parties thought it was a great idea to give the people more voice and not the politicians. But the bills never got  out of committee, died and most voters did not know about it.  Both parties, over the years, have  wanted to protect their legislative and Congressional seat majorities and they killed those bills.”

According to recent polls, over 70 percent of state voters want the redistricting process reformed.

When the Virginia State Legislature convened on January 11, 2017, two bills were entered calling for an independent Commission  to perform  the redistricting process sponsored by Democratic Delegates Plum and  Rip Sullivan of McLean.

As of last week, according to Plum and Democratic party operatives, the bills were still stuck in the GOP controlled House  Rules Committee.

A Democratic party  media spokesman said that the bills will come up for a vote on January 29.

Democrats and other supporters of the measure have been lobbying House Speaker William J. Howell to coax Republicans on the panel to send the bill to the floor for a vote.

A letter sent to House Democratic Leader Delegate David J. Toscano noted that after the last election cycle, Americans increasingly “believe our system is ‘rigged’” in favor of the powerful.

“Constituents want to know where we stand on re-districting reform and the only way they can find out is if we have a floor vote,” said Toscano. “A system that gives incumbent politicians the power to pick their own voters and draw political opponents out of districts is undemocratic and unacceptable. Voters should choose their elected leaders – but in Virginia, the opposite is true. Since both parties have been guilty of gerrymandering, both parties must fix it. I call upon Republican leadership to send these two amendments directly to the floor.”

Cannon said currently four states – Arizona, California, Hawaii and Idaho – have set up non-partisan and independent commissions. Eleven others have some form of third party apparatus  used to draw post census voting districts.

The size of the panels vary, among those four commissions from five in Idaho to 14 in California.

Cannon said none of the commissions are manned by  elected officials. State officials, such as the Secretary of State or director of the Department of Elections,  and  others from the two respective parties who hold no political office,  are chosen by the Governor and legislative leaders.

Cannon said in Virginia, supporters of such  a commission envision at least a five to seven-member panel.

Also, if the outcome of the panel’s work is deemed unfair or flawed, there will be an option for “vetoing”  it and seeking corrections via legislative or judicial revision.

Delegate Plum said supporters of redistricting reform  are optimistic that Republican party  leaders will heed to bipartisan pressure.

He said if the legislation is not adopted, then the courts may step in and force the hand of Republican party leaders.

In 1981, an election year, Virginia Democrats controlled the redistricting process.  They shut out Republicans and Blacks in the process until the federal court  and the Department of Justice ordered them to draw districts to increase the number of Blacks (12) and Republican seats in the House.