Home Virginia Politics Va. Redistricting: A Warning Shot to Democrats Everywhere

Va. Redistricting: A Warning Shot to Democrats Everywhere

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[cross-posted at DLCC.org]

If any Democratic legislator anywhere in the country (or any political reporter) thought Republican legislators might play nice and respect the will of the voters this redistricting season, think again.

Virginia, which won’t have state legislative elections again until 2011, already knows which party will have complete control of the redistricting process: neither. But even in a state where everyone knows the Democratically-controlled Senate and the Republican House will have to compromise in order to pass a redistricting plan – because it’s mathematically impossible to pass a plan otherwise – Republicans are already telling the Democrats to take a hike. The Roanoke Times editorial board explains:

House Republican leaders have no interest in working with Senate Democratic leaders.

Virginia lawmakers have had 10 years to fix the way they draw congressional and legislative districts after the U.S. Census. They chose not to. Now, the Republican leadership in the House of Delegates is laying groundwork for one of the most contentious, partisan redistricting seasons in memory. (…)

This year, they knew Democrats would control the Senate and Republicans the House during redistricting, creating the potential for stalemate, but it did not matter. Nor did it matter that Gov. Bob McDonnell on the campaign trail pledged to seek a better way. Not that he pushed for it once in office. They killed bills to overhaul the system.

Still, there was a glimmer of hope. With the chambers divided, maybe compromise could yet emerge.

Last month, the glimmer all but extinguished.

Senate leaders had suggested the two chambers hold joint public hearings on redistricting. That would save taxpayer dollars and help build a working relationship. The House refused. It will hold its own hearings, thank you very much, and the Senate can do whatever it wants.

If the Republicans aren’t even willing to make sure they’re on the same page with the Democrats in a state where no redistricting plan can be enacted without Democratic votes, how will they behave in a state where they can pass a plan entirely on their own?

That’s why redistricting is a top priority for our organization this cycle, and it’s the reason why any Democrat who doesn’t go to the polls this November might be denying themselves a fair vote for the next decade or more.

We were never under any illusions about this – certainly not after the Republicans’ infamous, mid-decade gerrymander of Texas. But anyone still harboring doubts just got the last warning shot they’ll likely see before November.