Gov. McDonnell to Veto Senate, House Redistricting Plans

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    What’s this all about exactly?

    *”PilotOnPolitics Sources expect @bobmcdonnell to veto legislative redistricting bill. Announcement possible today. No comment from governor’s office.”

    Also, the Examiner’s David Sherfinski tweets, “Gov. McDonnell plans to veto the General Assembly’s redistricting plan, a source has confirmed.

    I’m trying to figure out why McDonnell would veto these plans, not just amend them (perhaps with the recommendations of his own, bipartisan redistricting commission?) and send them back to the General Assembly. I’m also wondering if the House or Senate will override McDonnell’s veto, and if not, what does THAT mean? One possibility, I suppose, would be that elections would be held this year under current district lines, then again next year (a presidential election year) under new lines. Is this actually possible? I doubt it, but I’d say the chances just went from zero to…I don’t know, but a positive number.

    UPDATE: The Washington Post reports, “Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) vetoed a bill Friday afternoon that would have drawn new state legislative boundaries in Virginia for the next decade, saying he believes it violates state and federal law.”

    UPDATE #2: Here’s a link to Bob McDonnell’s letter explaining his reasoning. According to McDonnell, he has major issues with the Senate plan in particular: 1) lines “are not compact” as “required in the Constitution of Virginia” and “do not properly preserve locality lines and communities of interest;” 2) “the Senate plan may violate the one person-one vote ideal embodied in the United States and Virginia Constitutions”; 3) the Senate plan “is the kind of partisan gerrymandering that Virginians have asked that we leave in the past.”

    So now what? At the minimum, it appears that the Senate’s going to have to negotiate – big time. What a mess.

    UPDATE #3: Dick Saslaw responds, accuses McDonnell of “playing politics” and vows the Senate Democrats won’t “surrender.” The problem is, politically, McDonnell could come across as the “knight in shining armor” – standing up for democracy, freedom, the Virginia/American way, blah blah blah – on this one, even though that’s utterly ridiculous of course. We’ll see how this plays out politically. Also, how’s this all going to be resolved in a timely enough manner so that we can hold elections with new districts this year? Good luck on that one! And meanwhile, how does any current or potential candidate for office know what to do exactly? How do they raise money, plan their campaigns, hire staff, etc? Got me.

    UPDATE #4: As ArlNow points out, ” McDonnell’s veto will throw the races for the 30th and 31st state Senate districts into a state of uncertainty – candidates will have no way of knowing the final boundaries of the district they’re running for.”

    UPDATE #5: Another possibility a very smart, plugged-in Democrat raised to me – what if McDonnell is willing to give up some House Republican seats in order to win control of the State Senate for his last two years in office? That would be a great deal from McDonnell’s perspective, even if a few NOVA Republicans might be feeling a bit nervous right about now.  

    • Johnny Longtorso

      Legislative elections were held in ’81 and ’82.

    • Johnny Longtorso

      in exchange for gutlessly going along with the House map, you’ve given them bipartisan cover, so now the Senate looks bad and the House doesn’t.

    • First off, no one but people like us cares about this issue.   I still say that 90% of voters don’t even know who their delegate/state senator is, let alone care if that changes.

      Secondly, if you don’t care about this stuff, but still pay attention to politics, you likely are jaded enough to assume that gerrymandering takes place and politicians protect their own seats.  This isn’t any big shock, and while it’s kind of ugly, it’s part and parcel of how government tends to work.

      Third, by coming out and blasting only the Senate plan, McDonnell does look like he’s playing favorites.  And Virginians of both sides don’t tend to like blatant power plays from the top, especially when combined with one side of the government (either Dem or Republican) trying to win it all.  Virginians, for better or worse, tend to like divided government.

      So I think McDonnell is playing with some fire.  Given that he’s not used to handling it, he very well just might get burned.

    • Glen Tomkins

      And I mean, no agreement ever, by the present governor and legislature.  I would think that the reason McDonell did this would lie in what happens in the event of such an impasse.  Surely he doesn’t think the Senate will agree on something less partisan.  Why would they?  So it seems to me that he must be banking on an impasse.

      Does some court get to draw the lines if the leg doesn’t?  Or is it left to the next leg?

      If it’s some court, then it’s easy to see why McDonnell prefers that to what the leg produced.  The leg produced an R gerrymander in the House, and a D gerrymander in the Senate.  While the House gerrymander is nice to have, it probably isn’t necessary to have to let them keep fairly secure control of the House.  But the Senate gerrymander might be the difference between the Rs having a decent vs a lousy chance of taking the Senate.  If some court would produce a fairly non-partisan map, that loses the Rs a nicer but not necessary map in the House, which they would still control even without a gerrymander, but it gains them a possible map in the Senate, which they only get if there’s mutual assured gerrymander disarmament.  That’s a good bargain — for McDonnell anyway, though there’s undoubtedly loads of incumbents in his own party who will be angry at not getting their incumbent-protection gerrymander in the House.  

      If the new maps will have to wait for the next leg, perhpas he’s rolling the dice on getting a better Senate next time out, while he probably doesn’t have to worry about losing the House.  So his party gets to keep its House gerrymander, but has some shot at getting a Senate gerrymander as well.  At the worst, they’re not going to end up with a leg any worse than the status quo, but mihgt get a much better one for drawing the new maps.

      As for the CDs, there I suspect the courts will step in, given Voting Rights Act concerns.  Maybe the courts are actually more inclined to write an R gerrymander than either the R or the D Congressional delegation.  The folks in Congress already, tend to write bipartisan incumbent-protection gerrymanders, or rather, pressure their buds in the leg to write that way.  But the courts may superimpose the priority of creating minority majority districts, which often has the effect of gerrymndering the Ds into fewer, but more one-sidedly D, districts.  It’s nice for our side to have some safe districts, but it’s definitely not nice to get there by wasting many more D voters than you need on each such district.  An 80% D district means that you’re wasting the votes of 25% D voters who might make the difference in the district next door.

    • DCCyclone

      Isn’t that what Virginia Republicans wanted all along?  Of course they would surrender some Delegates to flip the state Senate!  To me, that’s always gone without saying.

      McDonnell proved himself a fraud today by attacking the state Senate map but supporting the House map.  That’s transparently phony.  There had been a part of me willing to entertain that he actually approached this with some amount of sympathy for the principle of fairness even if it wasn’t to his party’s maximum advantage, but now that’s gone.

      As far as the politics of this is concerned, my view always is that voters don’t care about redistricting, so this doesn’t have any political benefit for McDonnell.  All the district boundaries are contrived in the first place no matter how they’re drawn, voters have zero emotional attachment to them.  Only insiders and activists and other political junkies care about this stuff.

      That voters don’t care is exactly why in all states that allow it, legislatures and Governors can gerrymander with abandon.  There is no political cost.

      All I care about is that Democrats hold the state Senate.  Our 2 retirements are in safe seats, and Colgan is the big question mark.  As long as no one else retires, we have a path to retaining chamber control.

    • mechenvy

      Didn’t the Republicans and Democrats informally agree to let the House and Senate do their own things and stay out of each other’s way? Wouldn’t the bipartisan support in the House have been part of that deal, and therefore the Senate vote would be the breaking of that deal?