General Assembly passes bill that may delay 2012 primary date

The Virginia General Assembly gave final approval Tuesday to a bill that would move the primary date from June 12 to Aug. 7 if the state’s congressional redistricting plan is not approved by the U.S. Department of Justice early next month.

The General Assembly passed a redistricting map in January after months of partisan bickering. The map strengthens the constituencies of all of the state’s current incumbents, likely preserving the current delegation split of eight Republicans and three Democrats.

Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) signed the bill into law, but it still needs approval from the Justice Department to ensure that it complies with the Voting Rights Act before it can take effect, a process that generally takes 60 days

A bill introduced by Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) would automatically move the primary, if the Justice Department has not signed off on a redistricting plan by April 3.

Virginia is scheduled to hold Republican and Democratic primaries for U.S. Senate and 11 congressional seats on June 12.

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) had asked that the General Assembly postpone the primary date. “If this is not done,” Cuccinelli said in a statement issued by his office, “congressional primaries currently scheduled for June may be disrupted if the new district lines are not approved by the federal government within the short timeframe remaining.”

Virginia delayed its primary last year for legislative races as lawmakers worked on a legislative redistricting map.

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