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GOP-backed Bill Could Shift Va. Senate Seats

Some politicians, activist groups decry Monday proposal that could redistrict five Democratic senate districts.

Virginia’s State Senate narrowly passed a bill Monday night that could change the map of Senate and House districts across the state.

The Senate bill, which squeezed through with a 20-19 vote, shifts the districts of five Senate Democrats—three representing Northern Virginia—toward more Republican-voting areas. (See a map of the proposed redistricting in the media box to the right.)

Under the proposal, the districts of John Edwards (D-21st) Dave Marsden (D-37th), George Barker (D-39th), Chuck Colgan (D-29th) and John Miller (D-1st) would all change — and those changes would cause ripple effects to surrounding districts.

Virginia’s Legislature last completed redistricting in 2011.

Republican Sen. John Watkins (R-10th) defended the bill as "an effort to create another majority black Senate district," the Associated Press reports. But Democratic leaders and liberal organizations across the state decried the bill as violating the state’s own constitution, along with a move that doesn't allow for public input or comments.

The vote was also taken while Democratic State Sen. Harry Marsh, a 79-year-old civil rights leader, traveled to Washington for President Barack Obama's second inauguration. 

In a statement from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, Barker said, “A Circuit Court judge recently ruled that the Virginia Constitution does not allow for re-redistricting, which is what this bill would do, in order 'to preclude ‘politically convenient’ redistricting whenever one political party or the other might gain the upper hand.' This type of action is not permissible under the Constitution.”

ProgressVA officials stated, "This move is an obvious violation of the State Constitution, which clearly states that redistricting occurs every ten years. Legislators can't rewrite the rules of the game whenever they want. Voters should be choosing their leaders, not the other way around."

Monday's Senate bill makes amendments to an earlier-passed House bill (HB259). The senate’s amendments to HB259 now goes back to the House for approval or the bills will go to conference, where members of the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate can hash out their differences.

This article has been updated.

Navid Roshan January 22, 2013 at 01:47 PM
I guess they got tired dealing with womens reproductive issues (that and it became unpopular) so they are shifting to slimeball techniques on how to steal this state. This article should mention the vote came with 1 democrat away during a federal holiday and that the vote came down 20 republicans to 19 democrats
Pam L January 22, 2013 at 02:23 PM
1 African American Democrat who was invited by the President to participate in the MLK and Inauguration events. It's DESPICABLE. I hope Cuccinelli as Attorney General is forced to either take his party to task, or if he tries to defend them he will kiss goodbye ANY chance of being elected governor by the majority progressive Northern Virginia who will not tolerate what just happened.
J Anderson January 22, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Editor - A key piece of information was left out... HOW the GOP Senators got this done? An update on this tactic would give many a different view of the redistricting.....or at least the process.
Erica R. Hendry January 22, 2013 at 03:36 PM
This paragraph should have been included in the story (it appears there now): The 20-19 vote was taken while Democratic State Sen. Harry Marsh, a 79-year-old civil rights leader, traveled to Washington for President Obama's second inauguration.
Erica R. Hendry January 22, 2013 at 03:57 PM
I should note we are getting in more information about redrawn districts now and should have an additional story soon.
Erica R. Hendry January 22, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Here's an update: http://vienna.patch.com/articles/gop-bill-could-move-vienna-out-of-petersen-s-district
Bonni January 22, 2013 at 06:30 PM
It is irrelevant that a senator was out of town. If it had been a 20-20 tie, the Republican lieutenant governor could have broken the tie and likely sided with his party.
J Anderson January 22, 2013 at 06:39 PM
Bonni..... It's been reported the Bolling would have voted against the bill....breaking the tie by siding w/ the Democrats. That is why the GOP pulled a fast one. They knew it wasn't going to happen otherwise. So why not wait 24 hrs so Marsh could have his day to celebrate his life's work....
Locally Involved January 22, 2013 at 09:32 PM
Guess the GOP strategy is if you can't win with having the people on your side, use tactics that guarantee the outcome you want. Now, short term this works, as we saw in PA where a substantial majority of folk voted for the dem, but the GOP won the House seats. Long term? Now, that's a sticky wicket. More and more traditional GOP will do what they did in the 2012 presidential election - go independent or simply register dem as that dems will now be the mainstream party. That means a drift towards democratic candidates long term as more people abandon the GOP. OR, as so many have already stated, "i didn't leave the GOP, they left me." The GOP forfits any legacy.
Rebecca January 22, 2013 at 11:29 PM
You are right.
Laurie Dodd January 23, 2013 at 12:59 AM
I encourage people to tell Gov. McDonnell how they feel about this manuever. I asked him to reject it, arguing that a man with ambitions beyond the state of Virginia would not want to sign his name to an underhanded deal like this one. http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm
Locally Involved January 24, 2013 at 05:27 AM
Gerrymandering is legal. Abuse of gerrymandering on such a ridiculous scale as the VA Senate did the other day is vile and exactly why people are turning away from the GOP. Shame. VA GOP adding to divisiveness in their attempt to override the popular votes through dirty tactics. To recap, with civil rights veteran and Democratic State Senator Henry Marsh in Washington for the inauguration, GOP senators slammed an UNANNOUNCED mid-term redistricting plan (gerrymandering) through the Senate. BUT that's not the worst part. As the Senate adjourned for the day on Martin Luther King Jr. day, it did so in memory of Stonewall Jackson, the famous Confederate general from the Civil War, who was born on that day in what is now West Virginia. So, not only did the VA Senate pull a power grab on a day of national celebration (inaugural) and the honoring of our most honored civil rights icon - they gave both the 'finger' by honoring a leader of the Confederate Army. That's why people hate politicians, and specifically, are turning away from the GOP. Totally devoid of any moral consciousness. This is a vile act and needs to be repealed.
J Anderson January 24, 2013 at 11:43 AM
I saw a comment and then it never made it here about Bolling's position. Well.....here is the background. http://coloradoindependent.com/126808/in-malpractice-case-catholic-hospital-argues-fetuses-arent-people

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