(Opinion) Voting systems

Recent Virginia elections resulted in Democrats controlling majorities in both the House and Senate for the first time since 1994, creating a blue “trifecta” in Virginia government. The College Republicans (CR) and Young Democrats (YD) at Virginia Tech have differing opinions on the outcome, both with ideas and next steps for their respective parties.

“This is a very monumental and crucial moment for us just because it's the first time in 26 years that we have this trifecta,” said Rebecca Trinh, a senior studying political science and president of YD. “These policies and ideas that we’ve been imagining and thinking of can actually become law, which is also very exciting and something we're looking forward to.”

Trinh mentioned policy efforts Democrats are likely to push with full control of the state’s legislature, such as gun control reform, a minimum wage increase, Mountain Valley Pipeline opposition and Equal Rights Amendment ratification. She highlighted gun reform as one of the most important hot-button issues Democrats need to address, mentioning the May 31 Virginia Beach shooting.

While Trinh believes the 2019 Virginia election could be indicative of the upcoming 2020 presidential and congressional elections, A.J. Vail, a junior studying political science and the first vice chairman of CR, disagrees.

“I think there’s a lot of middle-ground people that aren’t necessarily voting for him (Trump), but against whatever Democrat wins the primary,” Vail said. “I think, in order to appeal to their broader base, the Democratic leadership has been on a big push to the left. I think they’re, to a degree at least, leaving behind those who lean Democrat or those who are loosely Democrat, which I think is a big swath of the population that has been voting Democrat for years and years and years. They're not quite ready for someone like Elizabeth Warren who has pushed too far left for them.”

With control of the Virginia Legislature, Democrats now have the numbers to push a redistricting process more beneficial for their party, although a 16-person bipartisan redistricting commission has already been proposed. Trinh acknowledged that some Democrats want their representatives to be partisan with the redistricting process but said a bipartisan agreement is more likely to pass.

“I personally think it’s probably going to become more of a bipartisan commission because we do have a majority, but we don’t have a supermajority,” Trinh said. “I feel like the best solution that will probably pass is either a nonpartisan or bipartisan commission to redraw and gerrymander and redistrict.”

Vail said a few populous areas in Virginia carry a lot of weight in terms of representation and that he saw Democratic input in congressional district redrawing as a potential issue. Seven of 11 Virginian members of the House of Representatives are Democrats, and Vail said redistricting could increase that number.

The flipping of both Houses also increases the chance of Virginia becoming the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA. Vail said he worked for former Sen. Glen Sturtevant, a co-sponsor for the ERA, and learned why some Republicans do not support it.

“The reason a lot of Republicans are against it has nothing to with the content,” Vail said. “They’re not against equal rights, obviously –– they’re in support of that.”

He explained that people in states where the ERA has been ratified have used it as a foundation to increase abortion availability. “That’s why, in some states, Republicans are against it –– because of that sort of precedent that some people have been able to use the ERA to open up abortion in ways that it hasn’t been opened up yet in Virginia,” Vail said.

Both Vail and Trinh encourage voter participation, as voters ultimately prove or disprove the claim that recent Virginia elections are representative of the upcoming 2020 election results.

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