Justice Department approves district plans

Published 11:07 pm Friday, June 17, 2011

The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday announced its approval of Virginia’s General Assembly redistricting plans.

The redrawn maps ousted Sen. Fred Quayle, R-Suffolk, by putting him into the same district as Sen. Harry Blevins, a Republican from Chesapeake. Quayle declined to challenge Blevins in a primary.

The bill that sacrificed Quayle came after Gov. Robert McDonnell vetoed a prior measure that would have eliminated a Virginia Beach senator, instead. After last year’s census results showed tepid growth in most of Hampton Roads (despite a nearly 33-percent jump in Suffolk), the region had to lose a seat to the burgeoning Northern Virginia area.

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“The process to get the legislation finalized was not easy, but, following, my veto, the legislature produced good bipartisan plans that complied with the constitutional and legal requirements,” McDonnell said in a statement Friday. “The 2011 election cycle is already under way and will proceed as scheduled.”

The approval from the Justice Department indicates that the plans comply with the protections of the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 federal law that prohibits practices that discriminate against qualified voters on the basis of race.

Four different senators, none of whom lives in Suffolk, now represent portions of Suffolk.

Under the new plan, Blevins’ district encompasses a giant portion of Suffolk that includes the precincts of Cypress Chapel, Whaleyville, Airport, Holy Neck, Holland, Kilby’s Mill, Lakeside and Lake Cohoon, as well as parts of King’s Fork and Elephant’s Fork.

Sen. Louise Lucas’ new district includes the precincts of White Marsh, Southside, Hollywood, Olde Towne, John F. Kennedy, Nansemond River, Chuckatuck, Yeates, Bennett’s Creek and most of King’s Fork.

Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr. now represents the Driver and Ebenezer precincts. As for Sen. John C. Miller, his district includes only the Harbour View precinct in Suffolk.

Suffolk’s delegates include familiar faces Chris Jones and Lionel Spruill, who have represented parts of the city for years. However, William Barlow and Matthew James have come on board. Barlow will represent a large swath of the southwestern part of the city, while James picked up new constituents in some North Suffolk areas, including Pughsville.