RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - State Senate Republicans have muscled a surreptitious redraft of Virginia's 40 Senate districts to passage over bitter objections from Democrats who were blindsided by the surprise move.
On a party line 20-19 vote after limited debate Monday, Republicans won Senate passage of an amendment to a House bill that previously had made only minor technical corrections to district lines.
After the measure was sprung on unsuspecting Democrats, its sponsor, Republican Sen. John Watkins of Powhatan, defended it as an effort to create another majority black Senate district. What he didn't say is that it would create even more GOP-dominant districts.
Democratic Sen. Don McEachin of Henrico called it "secretive and underhanded" and warned of a resumption of partisan discord that paralyzed the 2012 Senate. Each party holds 20 Senate seats.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
RICHMOND, VA — Today, in a political power play specifically banned by the Constitution of Virginia, Republican Senators voted to strengthen their districts and weaken districts currently held by Democratic Senators.
Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said, "If this plan stands, there will be litigation, you can be sure of that. The Virginia Constitution says that the Virginia General Assembly shall redistrict in 2011 and every ten years thereafter. This will be struck down. The collateral damage from this thing will be immeasurable. This isn't the last we've heard of this."
Senator Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) added, "There have been no hearings on this plan. The public has no idea what these districts look like. The good working spirit that this Senate has had will come to a very quiet, very sudden end if this bill is passed. To do this by surprise, to rush it through in a day, even though they control the Committee on Privileges and Elections — this is sneaking, underhanded, and beneath the dignity of the Senate."
Senator George L. Barker (D-Alexandria) said, "The Virginia Constitution says re-districting should take place ‘in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter.' It makes no provision for reapportionment in any year that doesn't end in ‘one.' A Circuit Court judge recently ruled that the Virginia Constitution does not allow for re-redistricting, which is what this bill would do, in order "to preclude ‘politically convenient' redistricting whenever one political party or the other might gain the upper hand." This type of action is not permissible under the Constitution."
The Virginia Constitution makes no provision for off-year redistricting. The Virginia Constitution requires that redistricting:
take place "in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter"
take effect "for the November general election…that is held immediately prior to the expiration of the term being served in the year that the reapportionment law is required to be enacted."
[Constitution of Virginia, Article II, Section 6]
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