Governor Vetoes Redistricting Plan

Published 4:08 pm Tuesday, April 19, 2011

RICHMOND – Hold everything.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced Friday he vetoed the State Senate's redistricting plan and legislators will return to Richmond on April 25 to tackle legislative district lines one more time.

The Senate plan, the governor said, is unconstitutional because it does not contain compact districts, nor does it preserve communities of interest.

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Though the governor specifically vetoed the Senate plan, even the House of Delegates district lines are potentially up for re-drawing, too, according to 59th District Delegate Watkins M. Abbitt, Jr., who stands to lose all of Prince Edward County if the House plan stands.

Once the politicians converge in Richmond, and because the Senate plan is part of the same bill containing the House plan, anything could happen.

The veto “screws everything up,” Del. Abbitt told The Herald, adding that he intends to take advantage of the situation to try and get Prince Edward back in his 59th District, rather than Del. James Edmunds' 60th District.

According to Gov. McDonnell, the Democratic-forged Senate plan is so obviously unconstitutional that all one needs to do is look at it.

“A plain visual examination of the districts in the Senate plan,” the governor writes in his April 15 veto, “also places into serious doubt that the compactness and communities of interest requirements have been met. As Justice Stevens said in the 1983 U.S. Supreme Court case of Karcher v. Daggett, 'Drastic departures from compactness are a signal that something may be amiss.'”

Locally, the Senate plan would have Prince Edward County shifting into the 11th Senatorial District of Steve Martin, which includes Chesterfield and Colonial Heights, out of Sen. Frank Ruff's 15th District.

Other changes in local representation include Buckingham joining Cumberland in Sen. John Watkins' 10th district. Buckingham and a portion of Cumberland have been in the 15th District of Sen. Frank Ruff for the last decade, along with Prince Edward.

Sen. Ruff has told The Herald that the Democratic Senate redistricting proposal “destroys a lot of community of interests.”

On the House of Delegates side, all of Prince Edward County, again, would be in Del. Edmunds' 60th district, Del. Abbitt losing his portion of Prince Edward.

Cumberland, meanwhile, would join the 61st District, represented by Tommy Wright, a district that would stretch to the North Carolina border, including Clarksville, South Hill and Chase City.

Buckingham would remain in Del. Abbitt's 59th District.

But anything could happen when the General Assembly reconvenes next Monday.

One of the possibilities is that legislators patching something new together which doesn't meet U.S. Justice Department approval and Delegates end up running three years in a row.

They ran for election last fall, would have to do so next fall, and then the following year with finally-approved redistricting plans to get back on the two-year election cycle.

Another option is that Gov. McDonnell's Bipartisan Redistricting Commission puts together a plan that wins approval.

On Monday, meanwhile, Speaker of the House William Howell announced that the House of Delegates' Privileges and Elections Committee approved a new redistricting plan for consideration by the General Assembly next week.