Representing Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax

Newsletter - January 19, 2020

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Richmond Office:
Pocahontas Building
900 East Main Street, Suite E409
Richmond, VA 23219

[email protected]

This week, in Committee and on the Floor,
I proudly cast my votes to ratify the

Equal Rights Amendment

This week, Virginia became the 38th state in the USA
to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

The ERA moved through the House very quickly. The Privileges and Elections Committee, on which I serve, heard the vote on Tuesday morning.

Three determined women came before the Privileges and Election Committee on which I sit.
Delegate Hala Ayala, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, and Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy

A 12-year-old Virginia girl and her brother spoke in favor as well.

The ERA passed our committee on a 13-9 party-line vote.
I quickly took this picture of the screen on which I cast my vote.

And the room erupted in celebration.
It was a moving experience.


The very next day, the ERA was brought to the floor for passage.

And on Wednesday, I was able to cast my vote for the ERA one more time.

The House passed the Equal Rights Amendment by a vote of 59-41.

The Senate passed it by a vote of 28-12.

It was a truly historic day for all Americans who cherish equality. 

Under the U.S. Constitution, amendments become law when they're ratified by at least three-fourths of U.S. state legislatures — or 38 out of 50. 

Although the ERA still faces court challenges, based on the deadlines Congress set when it first approved the amendment in 1972 and the decisions of a handful of states purporting to rescind ratification, the actions we took this week were a necessary precondition to finally achieving the goal of enshrining gender equality in our Constitution. It was awe-inspiring to think that my vote this week could end up changing the US Constitution and in such a profoundly powerful and important way.

Democrats promised that if we took the majority, passing the ERA would be at the top of our agenda. We kept that promise. 

ERA activists celebrate its ratification by the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

We aren't just voting for equality, though, we're practicing it too. 

Never before have so many women in Virginia held the powerful position of committee or subcommittee chair. We have more women chairing just committees now than the total number of both committee and subcommittee chairs under Republican rule.

Check out the graph below. You'll see when Republicans took power, they substantially reduced the number of women serving in these powerful slots. Now we have twice as many as we've ever had before in Virginia history.

On FOX News:
Defending Virginia's Gun-Violence Prevention

Click video below to watch me defend 
Virginia Democrats' gun-violence prevention proposals
on the Laura Ingraham show.

I was armed only with my two Constitutions...

Virginia's new Democratic majority was elected for many reasons. But one of the biggest reasons of all was that we are the only party willing to address the scourge of gun violence. 

Laura Ingraham made a number of false assertions about my legislation, but she clearly had not read my bill. Watch the five-minute video below. (I'm allowed to speak about halfway in.) How do you think I did?

Click the image below to watch me explain how we can both protect Virginians safety and their constitutional rights at the same time. 

Click image or here to watch me stand up for my assault weapons ban.

Richmond Under Siege

Unfortunately, the fear-mongering of pro-gun extremists has been successful. 

For decades now, they've turned Martin Luther King's birthday into their annual gun-enthusiasts lobby day. And that day has now morphed into an opportunity for white nationalists and neo-Nazis to once again descend on Virginia in the hopes of fomenting violence.

The news reports speak for themselves:

Virginia Capital on Edge as FBI Arrests Suspected Neo-Nazis Before Gun Rally

Three More Suspected Neo-Nazis Arrested Before Virginia Gun Rights Rally

Virginia Lawmaker Will Spend Pro-Gun Rally in Safe House Following Death Threat

These are the same neo-Nazis who terrorized Charlottesville in 2017.

Rest assured, we are taking the threats of violence seriously. 

Virginia State Police and Capitol Police have been working around the clock to prepare for Monday. I thank them for their service and preparedness.

Police putting up barricades to protect us tomorrow
from armed violent right-wing extremists.

Governor Northam responded to the threats of white supremacist violence by issuing an Executive Order temporarily banning guns on Capitol grounds. 

As an outspoken champion of gun violence prevention and the only lawmaker in the House or Senate carrying the single-most-hated bill of Governor Ralph Northam's agenda (the assault weapons ban), I know these goons have been trying to use the threat of violence to get me to back down. 

But despite the threats, including some personal threats, I will go to work tomorrow.

I was elected because I promised to fight for laws that protect Virginians from extremists like those who will converge on Richmond on Monday.

And I intend to stick to that to promise. 

My Redistricting Proposals

Friday afternoon, I introduced my redistricting proposals that I crafted in collaboration with Brian Cannon from OneVirginia2021 and leading anti-gerrymandering experts around the country.

The two vital questions they resolve are:

1) who decides who draws the maps

2) how are maps drawn.

1) HB1645 mirrors OneVirginia2021's proposed independent commission in 2019 (SJ274).

My bill creates a tri-partisan independent commission to draw the maps, comprised of three Democrats, three Republicans, and four unaffiliated citizens.  Proposed maps would need support from members of all three groups in order to be sent to the General Assembly.

Their maps would go to the General Assembly for an up or down vote. Only after two such proposals were voted down could the General Assembly amend the maps proposed by this truly nonpartisan, independent citizens' commission. 

I also introduced HJ143.

2) HJ143 is a Constitutional Amendment which, in addition to creating the citizens' commission outlined above, contains criteria to which the Commission must adhere when drawing the legislative and congressional districts and imposes certain requirements on the Commission's activities to ensure accessibility by the public.

The most important part of HJ143 is its criterion of fairness, the mathematical requirement that districts be fairly drawn. This cutting-edge idea, which I developed with the nation's top political-science professors who've studied ways to fight gerrymandering, is a bit wonky, but its basic principle is not difficult to understand.

Whatever maps the commission draws would be run through a hypothetical election based on the partisan leanings of every single precinct in Virginia.

The criterion of fairness necessitates that if Democrats and Republicans have a tie vote statewide, the resulting number of statewide districts would favor neither party.

So if exactly 1,425,252 Virginia voters choose Democrats and 1,425,252 Virginia voters choose Republicans (and, say, 54,225 choose a third party), the model is designed to neutrally create a 50/50 split in the Virginia House, a 20/20 split in the Virginia Senate, and a 6/5 split in the US House of Representatives. If more voters choose Democrats, Democrats should get the majority of seatsAnd if more voters choose Republicans, Republicans should get the majority of seats.

Now it is just a model. No model is perfect. Unlike my gerrymandering game, votes are not a fixed number. Voters do change their minds. Candidates still matter. And that's a good thing. Indeed, that's what democracy is about. If voters were always completely predictable, we would not have upset victories in elections. Your vote still does count.

So if the vote statewide is tied -- but one party has an inordinate number of good candidates running, while the other party has a number of bad candidates running -- a statewide partisan tie can still under the model give a party with the best candidates a majority of seats. As I said, that's a good thing.

But lines should be drawn so as not favor either party. 

My model would require maps to favor neither political party.

Not intentionally. Not accidentally.

A statistically derived "criterion of fairness" would prohibit unfair maps.

Governor Gerry designed his salamander-shaped map to favor his Democratic-Republican Party.

How does it work? How can we possibly determine how a precinct will vote before it does? And how do we weed out unusual elections where, say, people deviated from their usual party lines?

Virginia has only five statewide elections:  President, US Senator, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. I purposely chose Virginia's Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General races to make the model on the theory that fewer Virginians know who the LG or AG are than know who their Governor, US Senate, or President is. People may have strong feelings about Trump or Clinton or McAuliffe, but my model presumes that most votes for LG or AG are generic party-line votes.

The model also requires we use the average of six elections -- the last three elections for LG and AG -- to smooth out particular election anomalies. For 2021, we would look at 2009 (Republican landslide), 2013 (close election, with AG race practically tied), and 2017 (Democratic landslide) to make the model. As this is a Constitutional Amendment, it would work 10 years from now too. In 2031, we would look at the six LG and AG elections of 2021, 2025, and 2029 to calculate the criterion of fairness.

How do we determine the results from a tie election when only one of those six elections was actually very close to a tie?  We uniformly shift the votes up or down in each election to create the exact tie for each election in our model. So if one party wins by 53-47, a six percent margin, we move 3% of the statewide winning candidate's vote total to the losing candidate's vote total in every precinct to create a 50-50 statewide tie. (It also works with a small third party. If the victory is 49-45-6, it becomes 47-47.) That way, although each precinct would retain its Democratic or Republican bias in the model, we mathematically force a statewide tie for the model.

Then we have a generic model for how that precinct would vote in a tied election. We apply the new maps to it, and if they meet the criterion of fairness, plus or minus a seat, we know we have prevented gerrymandering.

A bit wonky, I know. But provably fair based on an objective standard.

Want to help me pass these bills? Please contact your other elected state representatives and urge them to support them!

If you're interested in sharing a personal story related to a bill, or want to come to Richmond to testify in committee in support of a bill, please contact my Chief of Staff, Jacob Weinberg by clicking the link and he will work with you.

Pictures from the 2020 Session

 The House Democratic MAJORITY Caucus in the Chamber.
Can you spot me?

I stand with reproductive health advocates and Planned Parenthood of VA.

I'm armed with the Virginia and United States Constitutions.
I'm always prepared when I go on FOX. 

Meeting with Alzheimer's advocate and constituent Karen Darner.

With leaders from the Arlington Free Clinic, which provides free, high-quality healthcare to low-income, uninsured Arlingtonians through generosity of donors and volunteers.

Last week, I shared a photo of the view from my new seat on the House floor, so I thought it was only fitting that I share a photo of the view from my new office. 

Upcoming Events

Please Join Me This Afternoon or Next Weekend
to Ask Me About Everything Happening in Richmond

Sunday, January 19
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Mark's Monthly Meetup

Los Tios
2615 Mt. Vernon Avenue, Del Ray

Saturday, January 25
1:00 pm - 3:30 pm
Town Hall
with Delegate Levine & Senator Ebbin

Mt. Vernon Community School
2601 Commonwealth Avenue, Del Ray

It is always my honor and privilege to serve you.

Delegate Mark Levine
Serving Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in Virginia's 45th District