Virginia legislative houses approve conflicting redistricting plans

The GOP-controlled Virginia House of Delegates and the Democratic-led state Senate approved conflicting plans to redraw the boundaries of the state’s 11 congressional districts Thursday, hitting a stalemate about whether to attempt to boost minority voting strength. The House adopted a plan drawn in consultation with the state’s eight congressmen that would make reelection easier for each.

House members said they were confident that their plan would be deemed fair to black voters by the Justice Department, which must weigh in on it because of the state’s history of racial discrimination. “We think [the bill] is both constitutional and meets all requirements of federal law,’’ said Del. William R. Janis (R-Goochland), its sponsor.

Democrats in the Senate passed an alternative that they said would allow black voters to elect the candidates of their choice in two districts, rather than just one, as is now the case. Their map would lower the percentage of African American voters in what is now the state’s only majority-minority district — represented in Congress by Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D). A new district would be drawn with a black majority in the Richmond area.

Such a plan would be more fair in a state that is nearly 20 percent black, the Senate Democrats said.

The state legislature must redraw the congressional districts every 10 years to bring them into alignment with population shifts revealed by the census.

The legislature appointed a conference committee to negotiate a compromise.

Rosalind Helderman is a political enterprise and investigations reporter for the Washington Post.
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