Advocates call in former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to push for Virginia redistricting reform

Advocates call in former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to push for Virginia redistricting reform
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-Calif., speaks outside of the United States Supreme Court after oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford to call for an end to partisan gerrymandering on October 3, 2017, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images)

Advocates who want to change the way Virginia draws its voting maps have called in bodybuilder-turned-actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger to push the state’s reform efforts over the finish line.

The former California governor was one of the first in the country to implement major redistricting reform. OneVirginia2021, which has pushed for change for years, hosted a conference call Tuesday with more than 5,000 Virginia residents listening to Schwarzenegger’s experience and thoughts about redistricting.

“Gerrymandering is the most evil thing that happened to our political system,” Schwarzenegger said. “We have to get rid of the fixed system.”

Before bringing in Schwarzenegger, OneVirginia2021 hosted five town hall events around the state with former Republican Virginia Gov. George Allento talk about why the redistricting process needs to change.

Redistricting reform would make a “more perfect commonwealth” and avoid districts that look like “spaghetti flung on the map of Virginia,” Allen said.

“If they do not get this done this year, it’s gone for 10 years and we’re going to have another 10 years of whoever’s in control setting the rules and partisan gerrymandering,” he said. “If the past is any indication, this will be in the courts. That ought to be embarrassing. This should be Exhibit A … we can’t keep doing it this way.”

Virginia’ redistricting reform options are a bill from Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania, that has gotten mixed reviews and a Senate proposal from Fairfax Democratic Sens. George Barker and Dick Saslaw. The bills were wrapped together Monday afternoon in a House of Delegates subcommittee, one of the ways lawmakers prepare legislation for a conference committee.

Both are constitutional amendments, which have to pass the General Assembly this year and next. After that, it goes to a referendum for voters to weigh in.

Schwarzenegger said he hasn’t reviewed Virginia’s options closely but he knows he’s not a fan of the House plan.

“The House proposal seems to be bogus,” he said. “It’s kind of pulling wool over peoples’ eyes and saying ‘Hey, look at it, aren’t we great, we are reforming,’ but in the meantime, it’s not really reform.”

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.