While public attention was focused on the inauguration of President Obama, the Virginia state Senate quickly passed a redistricting measure that could give Republicans a majority in the state senate in 2015. The measure was passed on a 20 to 19 party-line vote while one Democratic state senator was in Washington, D.C., for the Inauguration ceremonies.
“We talk about the dangers of legislating on the fly. Well, this is the ultimate in danger,” Senator Don McEachin of Henrico (D) said about the measure. “The public has no idea what we’re about to do adopting this substitute, nor would they know in the next three days that it would take for this bill to ultimately pass.”
Governor Bob McDonnell (R) had yet to read the legislation when it was passed. A spokesperson for the governor’s office told reporters “The Governor was very surprised to learn that a redistricting bill would be voted on by the Senate today… He has not seen this legislation. If the bill gets to his desk he will review it in great detail at that time as he did with prior redistricting legislation.”
The redistricting would potentially eliminate one democratic seat in the Virginia senate by creating one district that is predominantly minorities, and in doing so allowing Republicans to gain control of nearby districts. Democratic Leader Richard Saslow (D-Fairfax) says that Democrats will challenge the measure in court if it passes the House. “If this plan stands, there will be litigation, you can be sure of that,” he told reporters. “The Virginia Constitution says that the Virginia General Assembly shall redistrict in 2011 and every 10 years thereafter. This will be struck down. The collateral damage from this thing will be immeasurable. This isn’t the last we’ve heard of this.”