Home Virginia Politics General Assembly Overwhelmingly Approves New Redistricting Plan

General Assembly Overwhelmingly Approves New Redistricting Plan

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A bit earlier today, the Virginia State Senate voted 32-5 to approve a new gerrymander incumbent protection scheme redistricting plan. A little while later, the House of Delegates approved the plan by a 63-7 vote, all but assuring that the bill will become law. Here’s what changed.

The old Senate plan had crammed four GOP senators into just two districts in Hampton Roads and western Virginia, a partisan game of musical chairs guaranteed to oust two Republican incumbents.

The new one won over most Republicans by giving those four senators back districts of their own. But it pairs Republicans Fred Quayle of Suffolk and Harry Blevins of Chesapeake in one district and moves Quayle’s old 13th District into the teeming subdivisions of Washington, D.C.’s, Virginia exurbs.

Inspiring, eh? No? Well, anyway, for what it’s worth, see the “flip” for a statement from the Senate Democratic Caucus on today’s vote.

Senate Democrats Pass Redistricting Bill

Democrats Reach across the Aisle to Pass Bill

RICHMOND — The Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate passed an updated version of its redistricting plan today with a 32-5 bipartisan vote.

The General Assembly redistricting bill previously passed the Senate in a party-line vote, but was vetoed on April 15 by Gov. Bob McDonnell. The governor said in a letter that he had concerns about the Senate map.

Since then, Senate Democrats and Republicans have worked together to make modifications to the bill.  The new map continues to preserves the Senate’s current 22 Democratic seats, but substantive changes were made to Republican districts including establishing two Senate districts in Virginia Beach.

“Each side wanted more than they got, but we were able to reach an agreement and produce a map that meets state and federal requirements including special attention to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act,” said Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw.

Members of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 12-3 in favor of amendments to the redistricting bill, HB5005, during a mid-afternoon meeting.

“Negotiators on both sides worked really hard for the past three days to reach this agreement. This plan responds to the concerns of the governor, Republicans and the public. We Democrats negotiated in good faith with our Republican colleagues,” said Senate P&E Committee Chair Janet Howell.

“A 32 to 5 vote is always impressive in the Virginia Senate,” she added.

The redistricting plan passed by the Senate meets all federal and state legal requirements. It meets the criteria for redistricting as established by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Constitution and Virginia Constitutions.   These criteria include but are not limited to, making sure districts are near the same size, do not dilute racial or ethnic minority voting strength, are compact and contiguous, and maintain communities of interest.

“I think this measure is fair and balanced reflecting the partisan makeup of the Commonwealth. We responded to the Governor’s concerns and worked with the Republicans to develop a plan that is good for all Virginians,” said Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax.

  • “I thank the General Assembly for passing this new redistricting plan. I will sign this legislation as soon as it reaches my desk. The plan as passed does address most of the criteria I outlined in my veto letter, and ensures that the elected members of the legislative branch fulfill their constitutional obligation to draw our electoral lines every ten years.

    In my veto letter, I asked the Senate to send me a plan that was bipartisan and addressed potential legal issues.  The plan approved today is in line with those goals.  This plan retains more geographic and municipal boundaries, contains districts that are somewhat more compact, and passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote. In these aspects it is similar to the House plan. It is a great improvement over the previous plan that I vetoed, and which failed to gain a single vote from the minority party.  I applaud the Republican and Democratic members of the Senate who worked well together to craft this compromise plan.

    At my request, the Attorney General’s office has reviewed the preliminary data regarding the plan.  Based on this review, they concluded that the plan meets the relevant legal requirements of the U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act.    I have asked the Attorney General to ensure that the legislation will be precleared in a timely fashion so that the 2011 election process can get underway.

    While additional improvements in measures of compactness and preservation of communities of interest would have been ideal, and no plan is perfect, the Constitution of Virginia tasks the General Assembly with drawing lines, and further delay could have turned that authority over to the courts.  With state and federal lawsuits currently pending that request court-drawn lines, prompt action was required to preserve this inherently legislative function, and permit timely preclearance under the Voting Rights Act.

    I also wish to thank the many groups that have been involved throughout the redistricting process, including the Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting.  I am confident that their involvement and detailed report had a significant positive impact on the process by allowing members of the General Assembly to consider further options as they worked together to pass today’s plan. I look forward to continuing to work with the members of the General Assembly, and all Virginians, in our crucial ongoing effort to bring new jobs and more opportunities to every region of Virginia.”

  • cvllelaw

    to think that they might say to the House, “We’ll straighten out some lines on the Senate districts to benefit the Republicans, if you straighten out some lines on the House districts to not screw the Democrats so badly?”

    Or would that have made too much sense?