A surprise bill proposed by Virginia state senate Republicans that will redraw the state political map was approved 20-19 Monday. It will be further discussed on Tuesday, but if it passes the House and is approved by Gov. Bob McDonnell, it will essentially re-draw the state senate districts, in many cases making them lean more Republican.
Under the Virginia Constitution, the General Assembly draws new Senate and House districts once a decade, and most recently did so in 2011. Republicans said Monday the propsal was an effort to better represent African American voters.
While the proposal would keep virtually all of Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd)'s Reston districts, it would change many of her precincts in Vienna.
The proposal adds much of Herndon and Great Falls to Howell's district and is expected to make the 32nd District's voter base 2.79 percent more Republican.
The Washington Post reported senate Democrats think the new map would make at least five districts held by Democrats heavily Republican. The map puts two sitting senators, R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath) and Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta), into a single district, the Post reported.
Introducing yet another plan is unconstitutional, Senate democrats say, adding that voting while Sen. Harry Marsh (D), a 79-year-old civil rights leader, traveled to Washington for President Barack Obama's second inauguration was "underhanded."
The new map, which would take effect in 2015, was tacked onto a bill left over from last year that sought technical adjustments to House district boundaries.
"This redistricting is out of time, out of order and outside the constitution which states that redistricting can only be done in 2011. Our community is being political torn apart without any input or consideration," Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Vienna) said in a statement after voting against the bill.
"This measure is taken on a day when the nation is re-inaugurating our President, and celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King," Petersen said. "It is done outside the ordinary calendar and with the intent to maximize Republican power. There is no other purpose."
In the Republican proposal, Petersen's 34th District would lose much of Vienna, Dunn Loring and the area surrounding Oakton High School, moving those precincts to District 35, a seat held by Dick Saslaw (D).