The House of Delegates and state Senate are still far apart in their plans for new boundaries for the state’s 11 congressional districts and do not expect to finish maps next week.
Delegates and senators will resume their special session on redistricting when they return to the Capitol on June 9. Leaders say they expect to appoint six legislators to negotiate a compromise over the next month before the full General Assembly comes back in mid-July to approve a deal.
In April, the Republican-led 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 started the process of adopting 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.
“We think it's the right thing to do and it's a good plan,’’ Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington) said. “It doesn’t mean we don't have a certain dose of reality about it.”
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 an African American.
"I would like to think that the Republican majority would be willing to see that 20 percent of the population in Virginia had adequate representation in the Congress,’’ Whipple said. “I’m not giving up on that until I’m sure that's not the case. They have the opportunity to do something that would be good for Virginia and good for their party. Let’s see what happens."
House Republicans, who wanted to finish redistricting in June, have been grumbling that much of the Senate’s holdout is due to Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond), who is rumored to be interested in running for Congress.
But McEachin has said he is running for reelection in November and that the Senate is merely trying to open doors for African Americans.
"I hope the Republicans would understand that this caucus is not about to allow them to continue their practice of so many years of packing as many African Americans as possible into one congressional district and thereby diminish the influence of African American voters in the state,’’ he said.