Sen. Corey Parent: Statehouse Dems backing legislative districting map that favors party

The following commentary is by state Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin.

Do you think the most wide-sweeping change to the Vermont Legislature should be rushed through in the first 72 hours of the legislative session? I don’t.

Let me back up. Over the few years, we’ve heard about the importance of protecting our democracy — across the nation, and right here in Vermont — from forces that cast doubt on our electoral processes. Under this sentiment, we’ve passed reforms that strengthen our democracy — like universal mail-in voting. I agree with these notions.

Photo courtesy of state of Vermont

State Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin

But now, the majority party in the Vermont Legislature has made it clear that they are only interested in protecting democracy when it is politically expedient for them. Otherwise, they are content with rushing major legislation without adequate testimony or time for proper vetting.

Right now, the Vermont House Committee on Government Operations is debating legislative apportionment — basically, how the legislative districts for representatives and senators will be drawn for the next decade.

The Committee was provided draft district lines from the tri-partisan apportionment board, a committee made up of Democrats, Republicans, and Progressives from across the state. The majority of the Board agreed to adopt single-member districts. Vermont is currently the only state in the nation that has multiple members per legislative district in both chambers, which other states have abandoned due to underrepresenting racial minorities. An estimated 75% of Vermonters support moving to single member districts.

Nevertheless, on Tuesday Jan. 4, the Government Operations Committee began taking testimony on the multi-member map approved by the Democrat minority of the Apportionment Board, rather than the single-member map approved by the majority of the Board — with the goal to get an initial draft of the map voted out by Thursday, Jan. 6.

The minority map is beneficial to the Democrats — who also happen to control the Government Operations Committee.

This unnecessarily rushed process would push through a poorly-vetted map without adequate public testimony in the first 72 hours of the legislative session. Currently, the committee is scheduled to take testimony from a single member of the Apportionment Board — a Democrat, who drew the minority map — and that’s it. No one else. No public comment. No time. Just quietly advancing the most significant legislative alteration in record time as Vermonters and the press are focused on COVID-19 and the Governor’s State of the State address.

This is outrageous — and directly conflicts with the notion of protecting democracy.

It reminds me of a similar situation from earlier in the pandemic. These same Democrat legislators pushed forth a universal mail-in voting bill — supported by myself and other Republicans — to expand access to the ballot box. But they only wanted the bill to apply to general elections, when higher turnout might help the Democrats. I suggested having the bill apply to all elections in Vermont — including town meeting and school budget votes—so as to truly advance democracy. If higher turnout is good for one election, why is it not beneficial for all elections held in Vermont?

It seems Vermont democracy is only worth protecting when it is in the interests of the majority party to do so.

Now, House majority leadership will say that they need to rush through an initial legislative apportionment bill this week in order to get input from Boards of Civil Authority (BCA) and other stakeholders around the state because the Apportionment Board was delayed. This is nonsense. First, the Apportionment Board approved the maps weeks ago — where has the Legislature been? Second, BCAs have already provided input on the majority-recommended map. Third, there’s nothing preventing the legislature from hearing public comment before they advance a plan rather than after they advance it. Fourth, if we’re going to rush it, isn’t it awfully odd that we need to rush it with the majority-rejected, Democrat-favored map? And finally, doesn’t this argument really just come down to “we need to skip public hearings now so we can hold public hearings later”?

Even the non-partisan legislative council has recommended we don’t enact an initial plan until the “mid-2022 legislative session”, which would be some time in March — not the first week of the legislative session.

Let’s stop the nonsense. We need to take the time to get this done right — not get it done quickly at the expense of deliberation. Democracy needs to be protected 100 percent of the time — not just when it’s politically advantageous to one party or another.

Image courtesy of Public domain

5 thoughts on “Sen. Corey Parent: Statehouse Dems backing legislative districting map that favors party

  1. Why any of this would really bother Senator Parent is a mystery to me. In his heart, he is a leftist. In political practice he is a ship at full sail without any rudder. Whatever way the wind blows to keep getting elected is the direction he will travel.

  2. It’s a very familiar pattern, done every session.

    This is part of their play book, there are no coincidences.

    they do similar things in towns, keep voting, then take the voting outside of town meetings……..when people are on vacation, away….

    It’s no democracy…they don’t care what people think, they have an agenda to fulfill. Power and money.

  3. Not taking a position either way. Remember this was a split vote 4-3 for both H & S plans. The LAB did not have overwhelming support for the majority opinion. And the minority also had tri – partisan support. Additionally, if you read BOTH the VT Constitution and the VT Statutes, they contemplate 1 & 2 member H districts AND no more than 3 member S districts.

  4. The Vermont Democrat majority states that the redistricting map must be approved in 72 hours…….Not a second to waste.

    Meanwhile that very same Democrat majority allows the $5 billion public employee pension crisis to fester and worsen for years with nothing of serious consequence done to correct the problem……..The State pension crisis doesn’t even make it on to the Vermont House Speaker’s or Senate ProTemp’s list of the top 2022 legislative priorities.

    What’s the story on this 72 hour rush through the legislature?……..Where’s the media? TrueNorth Reports is on the case……..But, where’s the rest of the Vermont watch dog media? Where’s WCAX? Where’s VPR? where’s Seven Days? Where’s VTDigger and its board member commenters who are always preaching fairness, transparency and equity?

    Seems that a majority of the Vermont media is fine with our Democracy being under attack as long as long as the Democrats’ interests are protected……..Seems odd to me, but not unexpected from the party with a horrible record of constructive governance in recent years…….And a media that is only semi- interested, unless its political orthodoxies are threatened. Democrats holding up to 100% of the seats in the Vermont Legislature is apparently not an issue of overwhelming concern to much of this media. If it were, the media would be all over Senator Parent’s sounding of the alarm.

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