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Virginia Politics
Posted at 10:11 AM ET, 09/01/2011

Congressional redistricting will wait until November, may go to courts

Don’t expect a deal on congressional redistricting anytime soon.

The six negotiators trying to come up with a compromise on how to redraw the state’s 11 congressional districts have not met, and have no plans to do so.

They say nothing is likely to happen before November’s legislative election and even then, Senate leaders say they may be at an impasse that might require a federal court to step in and draw the lines.

“There’s no resolution,’’ Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax) said.

“There hasn’t been much movement,’’ said Del. Bill Janis (R-Goochland), who introduced the House plan.

In April, the GOP-controlled House adopted a new map drawn in consultation with Virginia’s incumbent congressmen to reflect population shifts revealed by the 2010 Census.

The Democratic-led Senate passed a competing map which would create a new district in which black voters are a sizeable minority, in addition to another district in which they hold a majority. The House plan, like Virginia’s current map, includes one minority-minority district.

Senate Democrats say a new minority “influence district” would ensure that the state’s congressional delegation was more likely to reflect the state’s demographics. Though almost 20 percent of Virginia’s population is black, only one of its members of Congress is African American.

“It’s a lot more fair,’’ said Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington) , one of the negotiators. ”It’s the right thing to do.”

Whipple and Janis met once in July in Richmond. Janis also said he drove to Hampton to meet with Sen. Mamie Locke (D), chairwoman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus and sponsor of the Senate plan. But the six have not met as a group and no meetings are planned.

“It’s a mistake to say there’s an impasse, they haven’t even tried,’’ Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) said.

States must redraw their legislative and congressional maps every 10 years in response to population shifts, to ensure each district contains the same number of people and all state residents have equal representation in Congress.

Legislators have been struggling with redistricting since early summer. Many say they believe the state constitution mandates that redistricting occur in 2011, the same year as the census numbers are released.

Janis hopes legislators will be motivated after the elections. “People are preoccupied and focused on elections now,’’ he said.

But Saslaw and Whipple say the disagreement may force them to allow a federal court to draw the lines.

Bolling said Democrats are only saying that because they think they can get a better map out of the courts.

“They don’t have any serious interest in solving the issue,’’ he said. “That’s a disservice to the public.”

The General Assembly remains in session, which means among other things, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) can’t appoint judges or set special elections.

By  |  10:11 AM ET, 09/01/2011

 
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