A Virginia Senate committee decided yesterday to renegotiate with the Justice Department over a redistricting plan that has twice been rejected on the grounds that it dilutes black voting strength in Norfolk.
The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee rejected pleas by a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union and Norfolk's only black City Council member to divide the city along an east-west line that would create one district with a white majority and one with a black majority.
Instead, the committee voted to renegotiate with Justice over a line dividing the city into north-south Senate districts in which whites out-number blacks.
Judy Goldberg of Virginia's ACLU told the committee that keeping the north-south redistricting line would "be an intentional act of racial discrimination."
Sen. Douglas Wilder (D-Richmond), the Senate's only black member, told the committee that the north-south plan was designed to help Norfolk's white Democratic Sens. Peter Babalas and Stanley Walker keep their seats by denying blacks a majority in either of the city's two senatorial districts.
Babalas and Walker said they supported creating a two-member district in which Norfolk's two senators would be elected at large. The city's population is about 35 percent black.