Governor vetoes new district plan

Published 11:24 pm Friday, April 15, 2011

Gov. Bob McDonnell vetoed the General Assembly’s redistricting bill Friday, citing a number of serious concerns with the Senate portion of the plan.

McDonnell said the proposed Senate districts are not compact, do not preserve locality lines, may violate the one person/one vote ideal and display partisan gerrymandering.

“I am concerned that the Senate plan is the kind of partisan gerrymandering that Virginians have asked that we leave in the past,” McDonnell wrote in a letter to the House of Delegates.

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McDonnell also expressed a concern about the lack of bipartisan support for the Senate plan. Not a single Republican in the 40-member, Democrat-controlled Senate voted for the plan.

Redistricting is required to occur every 10 years after the decennial census is conducted.

McDonnell expressed few concerns about the proposed districts for the House of Delegates, other than to “encourage the House to pursue opportunities that will strengthen its plan.” The House is controlled by Republicans, the same party as McDonnell.

“Certainly, the Senate can create a plan that will be supported by a bipartisan majority of Senators, especially with the Senate’s overwhelming support for a bipartisan redistricting process as expressed in previous legislation,” McDonnell wrote.

Leaders throughout the state applauded the governor’s decision.

“I commend Governor McDonnell for vetoing the redistricting bill recently passed by the General Assembly,” said Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling. “I opposed this bill because the redistricting plan adopted in the Senate was an egregious example of political gerrymandering. It unnecessarily divided communities and violated the core principles of redistricting.”

The Virginia Redistricting Coalition called the move a “historic step in the right direction,” but also suggested the House plan should be redone, as well.

“Though the governor puts most of his emphasis on the Senate plan, the House plan is also flawed,” said C. Douglas Smith, director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and chairman of the Virginia Redistricting Coalition. “This opportunity shouldn’t be used as a political end run to create delays or gain partisan advantage.”

The Virginia Redistricting Coalition is a statewide group of organizations and individuals who advocate bipartisan redistricting reform.