Amy Coney Barrett has been confirmed by a 52-48 majority in the United States Senate, and will replace the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the United States Supreme Court. Barrett, a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, was President Donald Trump’s (R) third Supreme Court nominee. Trump’s previous appointees were Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, who replaced the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, and Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who replaced retired Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Ginsburg died in September of complications from pancreatic cancer. She was part of the court’s ‘progressive wing’ and an advocate of the living constitution school of jurisprudence. Barrett is a ‘conservative’ jurist of the textualist school, and her confirmation is likely to bolster the court’s previously very narrow conservative majority.
The U.S. Constitution charges the Senate with providing “advice and consent” on judicial nominations. Republican senators failed to act on President Barack Obama’s (D) nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016, claiming that it was inappropriate to act on a nomination in a presidential election year. They have since reversed positions, citing either the treatment of Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Democrats during his confirmation hearings, or the alignment of the presidency and majority party in the Senate (a nuance that was never mentioned in 2016).
Barrett is expected to be formally sworn-in later this evening.
In the race for President of the United States, President Donald Trump (R) faces former Vice President Joe Biden (D). Also on the Virginia ballot is one minor candidate, Jo Jorgensen (L).
The United States has a unique system for electing presidents, where the citizens of each of the fifty states (and the District of Columbia) vote for a slate of electors who are ‘pledged’ to a particular presidential candidate. Each state has a number of electors equal to the size of its total congressional delegation, counting both representatives and senators. The District of Columbia has three electors as well, which brings the total number to 538.
Maine and Nebraska allot their electors based on the majority vote in each congressional district, with the remaining two electors chosen at-large based on the statewide vote. All other states and the District of Columbia allot their electors under a ‘winner take all’ system, where the winner of the statewide vote receives all that state’s electors. The candidate who receives a majority vote of at least 270 electors wins the election.
If no candidate receives a majority vote, the House of Representatives is called upon to choose a president by a ‘majority of the states’ vote. Presidents are elected to four-year terms and may serve up-to two terms.
In the race to represent the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States Senate, incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) is challenged by Doctor Daniel Gade (R). Warner was first elected to the Senate in 2008 and is in his second term.
Each of the fifty states have two seats in the Senate, for a total of one hundred seats. There is no representation, voting or non-voting, for U.S. territories or the District of Columbia. Senators serve six-year terms, and elections are held on a staggered schedule with roughly one-third of the Senate up for election every two years. This year, thirty-three seats are in contention, with an additional two up for special elections.
The Republican Party currently holds a 53-45 majority over the Democratic Party in the Senate. Two seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democratic Party, giving the Democrats an effective 47-seat minority. Currently, both of Virginia’s Senate seats are held by Democrats.
All seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election every two years. There are 435 seats, representing each of the fifty states in rough proportion to their population as recorded in the most recent national census. There are an additional six non-voting delegate seats representing U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.
The Democratic Party currently holds a 232-198 majority over the Republican Party in the House. One seat is held by a Libertarian (who was originally elected as a Republican) and four seats are vacant. Virginia has eleven seats in the House, with seven held by Democrats and four held by Republicans.
In the race to represent Virginia’s Tenth District in the United States House of Representatives, incumbent Representative Jennifer Wexton (D-VA 10th) is seeking reelection and is challenged by Aliscia Andrews (R).
The Tenth District encompasses Clarke County, Frederick County, Loudoun County, the cities of Manassas and Winchester, and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties.
Article XII, Section 1, of the Constitution of Virginia establishes a process for amending the commonwealth’s constitution.
The state Senate or the House of Delegates proposes amendments and, after having been passed through both houses, they are then presented to the voters for approval. Once approved by the voters, the state constitution is amended as specified, and that change can only be reversed by repeating the amendment process.
Citizens of Virginia will be voting on two constitutional amendments in this year’s November election, each of which would change or add text to the Constitution of Virginia.
Question 1: Redistricting Commission
In the United States, apportionment between the states in the U.S. House of Representatives is (roughly) proportional to each state’s population as determined in the decennial census. Each state is responsible for establishing the boundaries of its House districts in a process called “redistricting.” States must also draw the boundaries for their state legislative districts.