Senate Democrats are offering up praise for their congressional redistricting plan that would probably improve the chances of electing Democrats, in part by creating a second district with a sizable percentage of black voters.

Former delegates Mary Christian and Flora Crittenden, both Democrats, as well as civil rights attorney Al Smith are urging legislators to pass the Senate plan when the General Assembly returns next week.

“Virginia needs to have congressional districts that are truly representative of our growing minority population,’’ said Christian, who represented the 92nd District from 1986 to 2003. “It’s time to give minority voters a real opportunity to choose their candidate of choice,”

Senate Democrats say they think drawing a second “influence district” would ensure that black voters have the opportunity to play a role in selecting more winning candidates — and make congressional races more competitive.

In the Senate proposal, the percentage of African Americans voters living in the 3rd Congressional District, represented by Rep. Robert C. Scott (D), would drop below 50 percent for the first time since the Department of Justice ordered Virginia to draw a majority-minority district in 1993. But the percentage would remain sizable at nearly 42 percent.

Meanwhile, the 4th Congressional District — which would include much of Richmond and counties to its south — would become majority-minority for the first time.

 “It has been more than 40 years since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to provide more minorities with equal voting rights,’’ Smith said. “Minorities still face difficulties in electing a candidate of choice because our current district maps are packed at higher levels than necessary, which essentially wastes votes.”