The League of Women Voters of Virginia on Tuesday accused Republicans of playing politics by delaying the drawing of the state’s 11 congressional districts until next year.
“Punting the redistricting football further down the field isn’t just a blatantly partisan tactic, it is one that could lead to massive voter confusion as we move into a presidential election year,” said Lynn Gordon, the group’s president.
The state House and Senate passed competing congressional plans earlier this year but were never able to agree on a compromise map. After his party appeared to capture control of the Senate, state House Speaker Bill Howell (R-Stafford) told reporters that redistricting would be postponed until 2012.
Article II, Section 6 of the Virginia Constitution states that the General Assembly “shall draw electoral districts” in census years.
Last week, a half-dozen Virginia voters filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to draw a congressional map for 2012, alleging that the General Assembly has violated the state’s Constitution by not agreeing on new lines this year.
League officials also say they are concerned about reports that Senate leaders may want to revisit already approved legislative lines.
Sen. Tommy Norment, Republican leader in the Senate, did not return a phone call, but he told his local newspaper, The Virginia Gazette, that he wants to revisit redistricting.
“By stalling on congressional redistricting, and threatening to re-open the book on legislative redistricting, legislators are showing where their true interests lie: their own partisan gains,” said the League’s voter services chairwoman Betsy Mayr. “Neither is in the best interests of Virginia voters.”
Congressional candidates must file their intent to run for office no later than March 29. Primaries are scheduled June 12.
The Republican-controlled state House approved a map in April that would have made incumbents in both parties safer, likely preserving the current 8-3 partisan split in the congressional delegation for the near future. The Democratic-held Senate passed a different map that would create a new district with a significant percentage of minority votes, to go along with the current majority-minority seat held by Rep. Bobby Scott (D).