At Last, Virginia is Putting Voters First
In 2015, a report was released that gave letter grades based on the “health of democracy” in each of the 50 states and Washington, DC.
Virginia received an F.
Out of 51, Virginia was 50th. Our state democracy, it seemed, wasn’t healthy.
And while any middle school student could tell you the inherent, red-faced filled shame that accompanies such a dismal grade, the tangible impacts of Virginia’s failing assessment extended far beyond the halls of Richmond. Our representative bodies didn’t prioritize reforms putting voters first, to serve the people, rather than parties or special interests.
The 2015 report served as a wakeup call for Virginia’s voters, and galvanized activists already working across the commonwealth. In the last couple of years, Virginia has made significant strides towards putting voters first, as groups like the League of Women Voters, OneVirginia2021, New Virginia Majority and others served to catalyze progress and reform.
During the regular legislative session earlier this year, Virginia was the only jurisdiction in the entire country where election legislation including vote at home, ranked choice voting, and redistricting reform was passed with bipartisan support. Thanks to the work of courageous legislators, Virginia showed the rest of the country what voters-first governing can achieve.
To top it all off, on Election Day, Virginia voters overwhelmingly approved a redistricting reform amendment on their ballots by a 2-1 margin, creating a new citizen-led bipartisan redistricting commission, proving the appetite for reform is alive and well across the commonwealth.
Virginia still has a ways to go on many electoral reforms; political parties and special interests still hold outsized influence in Richmond. But 2020 struck huge blows to the status-quo.
The voters first ecosystem has momentum in the commonwealth, and with continued advocacy, drive, and philanthropy behind it, Virginia is on its way to being top of the class.