Democrats in the Virginia Senate have adopted a proposal for new boundaries for the state’s 11 congressional districts that would create a new “minority influence” district.
The proposal passed the Senate on a 22 to 15 vote, with all Republicans in attendance during a rare, steamy summer session of the state legislature opposed.
It conflicts with a map previously adopted by the GOP-held House of Delegates which was drawn in consultation with the state’s incumbent congressmen and would make reelection easier for each
The state legislature must redraw the congressional districts every 10 years to bring them into alignment with population shifts revealed by the census.
The House will likely reject the Senate’s proposal when it goes into session at 5 p.m. The two chambers will then appoint a conference committee, tasked with negotiating differences between the two plans.
That committee could remain stalemated for weeks or months.
Senate Democrats say their plan would allow black voters to choose the candidates of their choice in two districts, rather than just one, as is now the case.
It would accomplish that by lowering the percentage of African-American voters in what is now the state’s only majority-minority district — represented by U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott. A new 4th District would be drawn with a black majority in the Richmond area.
They believe such a plan would be more fair in a state that is nearly 20 percent black.
But the plan would lower the percentage of black voters in Scott’s district by about 10 points — and House Republicans believe that could jeopardize the plan’s chances for approval by the U.S. Department of Justice, which must confirm the plan does not dilute black voting power.
House Republicans are also concerned that the Senate plan could result in the ouster of U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes (R), who now represents the 4th district, and his replacement with a Democrat. They say the plan should confirm the choices of voters during the 2010 election, when eight Republicans and three Democrats were elected to Congress.