Virginia Senate Democrats have lost another contentious battle—this time over Congressional redistricting. But its passage did not require a tie-breaking vote by Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling due to the absence of one of the Democratic Senators.
Republicans advanced a plan that does not include another dominant minority district as Democrats had hoped.
Democratic Senator George Barker questioned the constitutionality of addressing redistricting since the state constitution implies that it should have been resolved last year. He also said the bill does not comply with the Voting Rights Act.
“African Americans are 19% of the state population and yet they are limited in terms of significant influence to only one district which represents 9.1% of the 11 districts that we have. Should there be two seats in which there was a significant African-American voice that would be heard, that would comply with the distribution of the population and it would represent 18.2% of the population,” said Barker.
GOP Senator Mark Obenshain countered that lawmakers wrestled with this for 10 months last year, and the Democrats, who were in control, offered no solution. He said the bill DOES comply with the Voting Rights Act, and there’s nothing to prohibit the Assembly from finishing the job this year.
“I would respectfully submit that the Supreme Court of Virginia has long taken a position that is at odds with the position articulated by my friends on the other side,” he said.
A suit has been filed arguing that the redistricting law cannot be passed this year. The bill now heads to the Governor.