Virginia Constitutional Amendment #1: Apportionment

There is a bizarre loophole in the Virginia Constitution regarding the reapportionment of U.S. House of Representatives, Virginia Senate, and Virginia House of Delegates districts (which occurs every 10 years following the Census). If a member of any of those legislative bodies leaves office (due to death, resignation, etc.) before his/her term is up but after reapportionment, their replacement can be (and in some cases has been) selected by special election from the newly redrawn district.

What that means is that in those rare circumstances, certain parts of the state might be unrepresented and/or parts of the state might have two concurrent representatives. The proposed amendment corrects this oversight by stipulating that replacement legislators must be selected from the same district as that from which the seat was originally filled.

I endorse a YES vote on the apportionment amendment because newly apportioned districts should all take effect at the same time, thus ensuring fair and equal representation. While the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution would seem to supersede this state-level weirdness, I’m always in favor of laws that say what they really mean.

Virginia Constitutional Amendment #2: Gubernatorial Succession

In the event of the governor’s death, resignation, or incapacitation, the Virginia Constitution provides that the lieutenant governor shall become the governor, followed by the attorney general and the Speaker of the House of Delegates. If none of these people can serve as Governor, or if there is no Speaker of the House, or if the Speaker of the House is ineligible to be Governor, then the House of Delegates is supposed to meet and elect a person to the position.

The proposed amendment allows for the Speaker of the House of Delegates, the Speaker’s designate by House rules, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and the majority leader of the Senate (in that order) to serve as Acting Governor in the event of a state emergency or enemy attack until the House of Delegates can meet to pick a more-permanent Governor. It also gives the state authority to provide for a waiver of the eligibility requirements.

This amendment is particularly important because, under the current system, a power vacuum could form in the event of a catastrophic disaster or terrorist attack on Richmond. I endorse a YES vote on the succession amendment because it provides for the continuation of important government functions and a clear line of authority in the midst of a state emergency.

(Click for more information about the above two proposals [no longer available])