What is it about the Republicans in the Virginia Senate and the day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? One year ago today, they went for a blatant power grab by attempting to redistrict. Yesterday, although not as insidious as last year’s plan, they did something similar.
Republicans Ram through Unconstitutional Redistricting Bill on Party-Line Vote
“Technical changes” are in clear violation of Article II, Section 6
RICHMOND, VA — This afternoon, Senate Republicans rammed through SB 310, a bill that makes unconstitutional changes to the boundaries of several Senate districts, on a 20-18 party-line vote. SB 310 is patroned by Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R – Fauquier).
This is the second time in the last two years that Republicans have voted for off-year redistricting legislation. (In 2013, HB 259 also passed with unanimous support from Senate Republicans.)
The Constitution of Virginia clearly states that redistricting shall happen “in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter,” and that new lines shall take effect “for the November general election…that is held immediately prior to the expiration of the term being served in the year that the reapportionment law is required to be enacted.”
No provision is made for any off-year adjustment, including the kind of continual changes that Republicans have supported.
Senator Richard L. Saslaw (D – Fairfax) said, “My Republican Colleagues would like us to believe “technical adjustments” that change district boundaries are not to be considered another attempt at redistricting. Last time I checked, the Constitution calls for redistricting in years ending in ‘1.’ This is 2014 and they’re still trying to redistrict the Senate for the third consecutive year. I believe the bill to be unconstitutional and should have never passed. ”
Senator Donald McEachin (D – Henrico) said, “Last year, Republicans used a bill much like this one as a vehicle to ram through a radical gerrymander that sought to give their party permanent control of the Senate — the will of the voters notwithstanding. This bill, like that one, is completely unconstitutional.”
Senator George L. Barker (D – Alexandria) said, “All these changes have been labeled technical. Nothing can be technical when you’re moving voters from one district to another. As we all know, we’ve had several recent elections that were decided by very small margins. Even the movement of a small number of voters can change an outcome. This is not simply a technical adjustment; it threatens to influence our elections.”
This is exactly why Democrats Ralph Northam and Mark Herring waited until the last minute possible to resign their seats after being elected LG and AG, respectively. Like I said, this bill isn’t as sweeping as last year’s. However, unlike last year, when Speaker of the House Bill Howell held the amendments made by the Senate to HB 259 as “not germane,” I don’t think that problem exists. I expect this bill to sail through the House of Delegates. If so, it will land on the governor’s desk.
Whether or not McAuliffe vetoes the bill will depend on what else has happened this session by that time. It is possible that he signs it – in exchange for something else, like Medicaid expansion.
One thing is certain: never a dull day in Virginia politics.