Virginia GOP sneaks gerrymandering bill in during inauguration
The GOP-controlled Virginia state Senate provoked anger from both state Democrats and Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday after pushing through a redistricting measure in the absence of a key Democratic vote.
Blue Virginia reported that the 20-19 vote, which broke down among party lines, upset McDonnell because he was “worried it threatens his agenda.” State Sen. Adam Ebbing (D) also argued on Twitter that putting the bill on the floor without notice violated the state constitution.
The plan, which now goes to the Republican-led House of Delegates, will merge the state’s 24th and 25th districts and create a new, heavily African-American district in Southside, a region located south of the James River. The bill’s author, Sen. John Watkins (R), said during the session that the makeup of the proposed new district made the measure necessary to protect lawmakers from future lawsuit.
“There is a large and reasonably compact African American community,” Watkins said of Southside. “They are politically cohesive. And the racial groups demonstrate polarization in voting preferences.”
According to Think Progress, the bill was put on the floor while state Sen. Henry Marsh (D) was in Washington D.C. attending the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Marsh was likely to vote against the measure, putting the tie-breaking vote in the hands of Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R). A spokesperson for Bolling told The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star he would also have voted against it, saying it could “could set a dangerous precedent for future redistricting actions.”
Sen. Chap Petersen (D), who represents the 34th district, said the measure would cause his district to lose 20 precincts and get 20 new ones.
“It’s fundamentally changing district after district,” he said.
The newspaper also reported that Republicans rebuffed a request by state Democrats to delay voting on the issue until Tuesday.
Watch the state Senate’s vote on the issue, in video posted on Jan. 22, 2013, below.