The Virginia House of Delegates easily approved a congressional redistricting plan Friday, setting the stage for a Senate vote next week on the controversial map.
The House passed the measure, which draws new congressional lines based on the results of the 2010 Census, on a 74 to 21 vote. The tally marked the second time the chamber has passed the plan, as the same map was approved in 2011 but was not advanced by the Democratic-controlled Senate, which had its own proposed map.
The House-passed map would shore up the state’s congressional incumbents, likely preserving the current split of eight Republicans and three Democrats. The Democrats’ Senate bill would have altered Rep. Randy Forbes’ (R) current district by significantly boosting its percentage of African American voters and raising the possibility that the state could elect another black congressman along with Rep. Bobby Scott (D).
Now that Republicans have effective control of the Senate, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) casting tie-breaking votes in the 20-20 chamber, the GOP should be positioned to approve its preferred measure next week.
But the GOP-authored redistricting plan still faces some hurdles. Under the Voting Rights Act, Virginia’s district lines must be approved by the U.S. Justice Department before they can take effect, a process that can last as long as 60 days.
Separately, a group of Virginia voters filed lawsuits in both state and federal court in November accusing the General Assembly of violating the state Constitution by failing to complete a redistricting plan in 2011. Those suits are pending, and both Democrats and Republicans concede that the issue will likely be settled in court.
The filing deadline to get on Virginia’s primary ballot is March 29, leaving relatively little time for the map to be set.