Va. House passes a bill that could delay this year’s primary

The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would move Virginia’s June primary to August if the state’s congressional redistricting plan is not approved by next month.

The General Assembly passed a redistricting map last month after months of partisan bickering. The map strengthens 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 U.S. Justice Department to ensure that it complies with the Voting Rights Act before it can take effect, a process that can last as long as 60 days

A bill introduced by Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) would automatically move the primary to Aug. 21, if the Justice Department has not signed off on a redistricting plan by March 20.

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) 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.”

A group of Virginia voters filed suit in November in both state and federal court accusing the General Assembly of failing in its duties, because the Virginia Constitution says the Assembly “shall” draw new lines in 2011, and asking the courts to draw a new map that would be used in 2012 and beyond.

A final vote is expected Thursday before the bill heads to the state Senate.

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

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