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GOP-backed Bill Could Shift Va. Senate Seats

Some politicians, activist groups decry Monday proposal that could redistrict five Democratic senate districts.

Virginia’s State Senate narrowly passed a bill Monday night that could change the map of senate and house districts across the state.

The Senate bill, which squeezed through with a 20-19 vote, shifts the districts of five senate Democrats—three representing Northern Virginia—toward more Republican-voting areas.

(See a map of the proposed redistricting in the media box to the right.)

Under the proposal, the districts of John Edwards (D-21st) Dave Marsden (D-37th), George Barker (D-39th), Chuck Colgan (D-29th) and John Miller (D-1st) would all change. 

Virginia’s legislature last redistricted House and Senate districts in 2011.

Republican Sen. John Watkins (R-10th) defended the bill as "an effort to create another majority black Senate district," the Associated Press reports. But Democratic leaders and liberal organizations across the state decried the bill as violating the state’s own constitution, along with a move that doesn't allow for public input or comments.

In a statement from the Virginia Senate Democratic Caucus, Barker said, “A Circuit Court judge recently ruled that the Virginia Constitution does not allow for re-redistricting, which is what this bill would do, in order 'to preclude ‘politically convenient’ redistricting whenever one political party or the other might gain the upper hand.' This type of action is not permissible under the Constitution.”

ProgressVA officials stated, "This move is an obvious violation of the State Constitution, which clearly states that redistricting occurs every ten years. Legislators can't rewrite the rules of the game whenever they want. Voters should be choosing their leaders, not the other way around."

Monday's Senate bill makes amendments to an earlier-passed House bill (HB259). The senate’s amendments to HB259 now goes back to the House for approval or the bills will go to conference, where members of the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate can hash out their differences.

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