HEAVEN FORBID that an incumbent seeking reelection to Virginia’s state legislature should face a bump in the road in the form of a plausible challenger. If the incumbent were seeking reelection in a district where Democrats and Republicans enjoyed roughly equal support, it might empower voters to keep candidates of both parties on their toes, which would start to look something like democracy.
Clearly, that’s not the Virginia Way — not in these modern times of jiggering electoral maps and cherry-picking voters, the better for incumbents to guarantee their glide path to non-competitive reelection in perpetuity.
Exhibit A for such electoral shenanigans is state Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) . Mr. Reeves, a culture warrior who wielded an antiabortion message to unseat a veteran Democrat in 2011, was evidently unnerved by his razor-thin margin of victory. He wanted extra Republican voters in his district as padding so that he doesn’t have to repeat the experience this fall, when he appears to face a strong Democratic challenge from Traci Dippert, a teacher. His fellow lawmakers, mainly Republicans, were happy to oblige.
In a move whose cynicism echoes the “democracies” of Russia, Syria and other unsavory places, Mr. Reeves pushed legislation that would trade precincts with a neighboring district. The goal — unobscured by Mr. Reeves’s smoke-blowing about unifying a couple of split precincts — is to export Democrats who might vote against him and import Republicans who look like a surer bet.
The neighboring senator, who would also benefit by the swap, is R. Creigh Deeds (D), whose sense of principle is evidently more fine-tuned than Mr. Reeves’s. Mr. Deeds, who knows a stomach-turning political stunt when he sees one, voted no. “When you’re flipping a Democratic precinct into the district I represent, and a Republican precinct into the district [Mr. Reeves] represents, how else can you see it?” he asked The Post’s Jenna Portnoy.
Unfortunately for voters in Mr. Reeves’s District 17, which stretches from Fredericksburg west to Charlottesville, the GOP-dominated House of Delegates disregarded concerns for old-fashioned virtues like candor and fair play. It voted 65 to 33 in favor of the bill. The Senate, where Republicans enjoy a slight advantage, also backed it, by a vote of 21 to 18.
The bill now goes to Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who should veto it.
In many other states, lawmakers wait until after the decennial census to redraw districts. Not so in Virginia, a swing state where it seems Republicans who hold sway in Richmond will stop at nothing to lock in their hold on power — including election-rigging.
Thanks to shameless gerrymandering, more than 90 percent of Virginia’s state legislative elections in 2011 and 2013 combined were blowouts; in more than half, the victorious Republican or Democrat faced no candidate from the other major party.
Little wonder that voter turnout for those elections has been plummeting for years. When voters see brazen cynicism like Mr. Reeves’s, they tend to stay home.