UPDATE: 11:30 a.m. A spokeswoman for Bolling has reached out to clarify that he is urging the General Assembly to “strongly consider” the maps proposed by the bipartisan commission, which is slightly different than indicating that the commission’s maps should definitely be accepted.
UPDATE #2: 1:04 p.m. Democratic Party of Virginia Chairman Brian Moran has issued the following response to Bolling’s statement: “Bill Bolling and the Republicans are engaging in the most cynical form of partisan politics. Democrats have been trying for decades to get politics out of the redistricting process, but Republicans shot us down at every turn. Senate Democrats passed real bipartisan redistricting reform in 2010 and 2011 and Bob McDonnell and Bill Bolling sat on their hands as House Republicans killed it.”
“It is transparently absurd for Bill Bolling to suggest that Senate Democrats operate under a different set of rules than House Republicans, especially when these are the rules that Republicans fought so hard to keep. This is just another example of Republicans abusing this process for their own political gain.”
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) is calling on the General Assembly to ditch new legislative maps proposed by political leaders in the Senate and House of Delegates and replace them with plans drawn up by a bipartisan commission appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
Bolling has long been a supporter of creating a bipartisan panel independent from the legislature to redraw legislative boundaries, as task that must be done once every 10 years to accommodate population shifts revealed by the census.
“These recommendations should be embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike,” Bolling said in a statement. “In properly drawn districts, both parties will have a fair chance to compete and the best interests of citizens will be placed above the self interest of politicians.
His call Thursday came with a twist: He said McDonnell should use his veto pen to scrap plans sent to him by the legislature and replace them with the maps designed by his commission without incumbent protection in mind. Bolling said McDonnell should wipe away any plan that doesn’t have “widespread bipartisan support.”
That likely amounts to a call for McDonnell to ditch the Democrats’ plan for the Senate but accept the Republicans’ proposal for the House.
That’s because the GOP-drawn map of new House of Delegates districts was adopted late Wednesday night by the House on a 86 to 8 vote. Most Democrats voted with Republicans in support of the plan, including Democrats in the legislative black caucus who have said they believe the plan protects majority-minority districts, as well as some Democrats in Northern Virginia who felt their districts had been treated well by Republican leaders.
It’s likely to be a different story in the Senate Thursday, where Democrats are likely to amend the House plan and tack on Senate maps drawn up by Democratic leaders on a straight party line vote.
“While the current House plan has received strong bipartisan support in committee and the full House with over 90 percent of the members voting for the plan, the Senate leadership’s plan has been derided as the epitome of partisan gerrymandering by Republicans and independent observers alike,” Bolling said.
The idea that McDonnell would reject the Democrats’ plan for the Senate but accept his own party’s map for the House is not going to sit well with the Democrats--and the fact that the idea is being advocated by a strong ally of McDonnell is likely to make them extremely nervous.
But it’s not yet clear if McDonnell would be interested in the move. He has previously said he would sign plans drawn up by the General Assembly if they complied with the law .
And scrapping only the plan drawn up by his political opponents while leaving the GOP-designed House plan untouched, despite the bipartisan House vote, would be politically risky. It would surely leave the governor open to accusations of partisan meddling.
But there could be a political upside to the move for the governor as well: In an election year in which control of the Senate will be hotly contested, it would let him criticize Senate Democrats for drawing up oddly-shaped districts designed to protect their incumbents.
And it would force the Democrats to reject a plan drawn up by the bipartisan commission in favor of one their own creation. Senate Democrats have for years supported the creation of a bipartisan redistricting commission but the House has always rejected the notion.
A governor’s amendment would be unlikely to have any practical impact, however: The Senate would be able to reject any amendments the governor made to their plan on a majority vote.