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Dems call Inauguration Day redistricting a ‘blatant power-grab’

It exploded through social media with the same oomph Democrats say it was pushed through the Virginia Senate. Around 5 p.m. Monday, word started to break through Facebook, Twitter and rapid press releases of an abrupt redistricting proposal from Senate Republicans – a proposal unexpected and illegal, Democrats say.

Contentious from a number of angles, the redistricting legislation was introduced on a day when one Democrat, Henry Marsh (D-16th), was absent from the evenly divided Senate. Marsh was in Washington for President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. 

The measure passed on a party-line vote, 20-19.

Critics of the redistricting plan—introduced on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday, and the day of the Inauguration ceremony, considered by many a day of national unity—were highly skeptical of the GOP’s intent. 

And there remains the question whether the measure is legal under the Virginia Constitution. According to the Constitution, redistricting is to take place in years ending in one every 10 years following the U.S. Census. The last redistricting came in 2011.

The patron of the plan, John Watkins (R-10th), however, told the Associated Press his bill was meant to position the commonwealth away from the potential litigation. Watkins said the new lines would create another district with a black majority in southern-central Virginia, bringing the state’s demographic makeup within the 1965 Voters Right Act.

Democrats weren’t convinced. Aside from the process through which and timing when the bill was put forward, some Democrats believe it makes certain districts more winnable for Republicans.

Local Sen. Mark Herring (D-33rd) called the move “utterly outrageous” and “cynical political gamesmanship at its absolute worst.”

“While Americans across the nation honored the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and put partisanship aside to watch as our President was inaugurated, Republicans in the state Senate disgracefully planned a partisan takeover of the chamber,” Herring said. “This is not the Virginia way of governing and their actions raise constitutional concerns.”

Herring’s district would see minor shifts under Watkins’ legislation.

The two Republican senators representing portions of Loudoun County, Jill Vogel (R-27th) and Dick Black (R-13th), were in committee meetings early Tuesday and couldn’t be reached for comment. Neither has issued a statement on the legislation.

Another Senator from Northern Virginia, George Barker (D-39th), commented on the bill’s legality, noting the state’s Constitution “makes no provision for reapportionment in any year that doesn’t end in ‘one.’”

“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,” Barker said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-35th) said if the plan stands there will be litigation.

“The collateral damage from this thing will be immeasurable. This isn’t the last we’ve heard of this,” Saslaw said.

The Loudoun County Democratic Committee also weighed in on the issue, urging constituents to contact Vogel and Black to tell them to withdraw support from the measure.

“This blatant power grab—taken on a day of national unity and celebration—flies in the face of Virginia’s values of cooperation and restraint,” Evan Macbeth, chairman of the LCDC, said in a prepared statement. “It is the worst kind of brazen and crass gamesmanship. It demonstrates to all of Virginia the true colors of the Republicans in her Senate: Power at all costs, without regard for the public’s will and without respect for due process.”

This story has been updated from a previous version.

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The GOP has run out of persuadable white voters.  Time to start trying to rig the electoral process…

Well, I’m sure an outpouring of comments from constituents against this plan would change Black’s mind. 

Wow, I just came up with the funniest line of the day. 

Fred - No one is buying this “we did it for the minorities” line the GOP is trying to put out there.  This is an old school move to marginalize any chance at adjacent areas being influenced by the minority vote. 

It is no different than the GOP’s strict objection to early voting and loosening absentee rules.  Shouldn’t a representative government want to see as many voters vote as possible?  Shouldn’t it be as easy as possible?  Especially in an area with such unpredictable traffic?  Heck, your 1/2 hour commute can easily turn into a 2 hour one with just a few hiccups along the way.

Reid’s moves regarding filibuster reform are transparent, versus the surreptitious operations of VA’s GOP Senators. McDonnell didn’t know about this ahead of time, just like he didn’t know about trans-vaginal ultrasound legislation he convinced Vogel to submit?  Right. . . Now he’s concerned about legacy?

As far as connecting with constituents, Black has never contacted anyone I know in this district.  Maybe he only informs supporters?

Glad to hear from Laugh again.

“Please chase down an answer from Dick Black on this.  He is not communicating with his constituents these days.”

I don’t know about that, @Satchmo. He sends out a constituent email about once a week. I get it and I’m not even one of his constituents!

FredSanford - The one district was one (R)s never win anyway and it was a throw away to push the rest of the new redistricting to favor (R)s at the state level.

If the bill was so good why did it take a dirty trick to get it passed?

Even Bob McDonnell is keeping his distance from this move. I think the honorable conservative died with Barry Goldwater.

So Democrats didn’t like the parliamentary tactics used to bring the bill to a vote, but that doesn’t explain why gaining a district with a black majority in southern-central Virginia is bad.

If you ask me, Democrats should be cheering in the streets for the gift they’ve received.

If you can’t win elections and it looks like maybe you never will, you stop worrying about convincing voters and start trying to rig the system.  That explains what we’re seeing here.  Not surprised that Senator Jill “Vaginal Probe” Vogel and Dick Black voted for it.

To those trying to argue that the result is a map that’s more fair…come on, do you think people are that stupid? For example,  Mark Herring’s district was redrawn with an eye toward advantaging the GOP if there’s a special election…which would occur if, as he should, Mark becomes Virginia’s next Attorney General.  Coincidence?  A Map that’s More Fair?


equity I am talking about the reform of the filibuster and the way Reid is going about it.

“A filibuster is a type of parliamentary procedure where debate is extended, allowing one or more members to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal. It is sometimes referred to as talking out a bill, and characterized as a form of obstruction in a legislature or other decision-making body.” Wiki definition

“Gerrymandering is a practice that attempts to establish a political advantage for a particular party or group by manipulating geographic boundaries to create partisan advantaged districts.”  Wiki definition

Filibuster is obviously not the same as gerrymandering.
Filibuster reforms are intended to require that it is a talking, not silent obstruction.

Looking forward to hearing more about the illegality of this move under VA Constitution.

Well for starters Fred, the motion was brought up anew from the floor, copies of the motion had to be handed out so Senators knew what they were considering, the Republicans voted down a request to table the motion until a public hearing could be heard, AND there are serious questions about whether any redistricting is constitutional at this time. 

I have a hard time believing there wasn’t a nefarious motive behind this quick moving opportunistic strategy.  Especially when you watch the proceedings and see how Bolling smoothing shuffled through the surprise motion.

I really want to hear what Dick Black says about this and who told him to vote for it.

Maybe I’m missing something, but what are the Democrats crying about if this bill is creating a district with a black majority in southern-central Virginia? How is this a Republican Power Grab?

Please chase down an answer from Dick Black on this.  He is not communicating with his constituents these days.  I’d like to know who told him to support this bill?

isn’t reid doing the same thing with the filibuster

This is a much more legitimate map than the gerrymandered one used for the 2011 elections. The districts are much more compact, and stick to local jurisdictions much better. For instance, why is part of Loudoun County represented by Barbara Favola from Arlington or even Jill Vogel from Fauquier Co.? The new map gives Loudoun two Senators who live here, one of each party, with Sen. Black’s district running over a little into Prince William. This is a much more fair and balanced map, and adds a majority-minority seat.

Is anyone really surprised that the Republicans would pull something like this.  Year after year, it seems that the effort is to try to outdo the past year with heavy-handed, take no prisoners attitude by the Republicans.  We see it in Richmond, and we see it locally.

The statement by Evan Macbeth presupposes he knows anything about Virginia’s values of cooperation and restraint!

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