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Virginia Politics
Posted at 03:33 PM ET, 05/02/2011

Government watchdog group faults McDonnell for action on redistricting bill

The Virginia Redistricting Coalition, which has advocated changing how new boundaries are drawn in the state, faulted Gov. Bob McDonnell for not living up to his campaign process when he signed new legislative maps Friday night.

“Gov. McDonnell never fully delivered on his campaign promise, so he shouldn’t be declaring victory,” said C. Douglas Smith, director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and chairman of the coalition. “He had a chance to make history but he went along with politics as usual instead.”

The group criticized Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) for:

· Failing to back the creation of a binding redistricting commission

· Launching an advisory commission this year and giving it no authority

· Taking a partisan tone against Democrats in the Senate when vetoing the original bill passed by the General Assembly when the Republican-led House plan was equally self-serving

· Signing a bill that still preserve partisan advantage on both sides

The General Assembly passed a bill Thursday and McDonnell quickly signed the bill Friday, saying it was much improved.

“This plan retains more geographic and municipal boundaries, contains districts that are somewhat more compact, and passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote. In these aspects it is similar to the House plan,’’ McDonnell said in a statement. “It is a great improvement over the previous plan that I vetoed, and which failed to gain a single vote from the minority party.  I applaud the Republican and Democratic members of the Senate who worked well together to craft this compromise plan.’’

McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell responded to the coalition’s complaints Monday afternoon. “The governor appreciates the input of the coalition; the advisory commission he created, which was unprecedented for Virginia; the college students who participated in developing redistricting maps; and the citizens who all provided significant input into this process,’’ Caldwell said. “Although no plan is ever perfect, the redistricting bill passed the General Assembly last week with strong bi-partisan support and addressed many of the governor’s previously stated concerns.”

Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office is preparing the legislation to be sent later this week to the Justice Department, where it will be reviewed.

The coalition called on state leaders to create commission to draw lines in the future, and that every candidate should be put on the record about the issue this fall.

Legislators did not model their maps on the governor’s advisory commission or student-drawn maps.

“The impartial plans produced by the commission and by the college competition should have been the standard the General Assembly met,” said Olga Hernandez, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia, a coalition member. “They were better plans than the gerrymandered maps produced by the House and Senate, and they prove that a binding, citizen-led process would yield a result better for citizens.”

By  |  03:33 PM ET, 05/02/2011

 
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