Senate Democrats Pass Redistricting Bill
RICHMOND –The Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate passed an updated version of its redistricting plan today with a 32-5 bipartisan vote.
The General Assembly redistricting bill previously passed the Senate in a party-line vote, but was vetoed on April 15 by Gov. Bob McDonnell. The governor said in a letter that he had concerns about the Senate map.
Since then, Senate Democrats and Republicans have worked together to make modifications to the bill. The new map continues to preserves the Senate's current 22 Democratic seats, but substantive changes were made to Republican districts including establishing two Senate districts in Virginia Beach.
"Each side wanted more than they got, but we were able to reach an agreement and produce a map that meets state and federal requirements including special attention to the requirements of the Voting Rights Act," said Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw.
Members of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 12-3 in favor of amendments to the redistricting bill, HB5005, during a mid-afternoon meeting.
"Negotiators on both sides worked really hard for the past three days to reach this agreement. This plan responds to the concerns of the governor, Republicans and the public. We Democrats negotiated in good faith with our Republican colleagues," said Senate P&E Committee Chair Janet Howell.
"A 32 to 5 vote is always impressive in the Virginia Senate," she added.
The redistricting plan passed by the Senate meets all federal and state legal requirements. It meets the criteria for redistricting as established by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the U.S. Constitution and Virginia Constitutions. These criteria include but are not limited to, making sure districts are near the same size, do not dilute racial or ethnic minority voting strength, are compact and contiguous, and maintain communities of interest.
"I think this measure is fair and balanced reflecting the partisan makeup of the Commonwealth. We responded to the Governor's concerns and worked with the Republicans to develop a plan that is good for all Virginians," said Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax.