GOP Senate Redistricting Splits Area

Published 5:35 pm Thursday, January 24, 2013

FARMVILLE – Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward are split into three different State Senate districts in a surprise redistricting plan passed by Republicans on a strict party line vote in Richmond on Monday.

Prince Edward County would be divided between two Senate districts, one of them including part of the City of Richmond and Henrico County, the other including the City of Martinsville and part of Danville.

“Wow, that sounds like fun. I just don't understand what they're doing. It just doesn't make sense,” said Farmville Town Manager Gerald Spates, when informed of the plan's details on Wednesday.

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“I don't want to be put in with the City of Richmond, not that I dislike Richmond but we'll just get thrown into the backseat,” he said regarding his fears the community's rural voice will be diminished in a district that also includes parts of the City of Richmond, Henrico County, and Chesterfield County.

The 20-19 party line vote was taken in the Senate Monday when Democratic Senator Henry Marsh was in Washington, D.C. attending the inauguration of President Obama.

The Virginia Constitution states that redistricting will occur once every ten years, following the national Census, and the General Assembly performed that duty in 2011, passing a redistricting plan that was signed into law by the governor and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice. The local result was a compact Senate district that included the core localities in the Farmville area.

Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward, along with Farmville, are currently all represented by GOP Senator Tom Garrett in the 22nd Senate District, who voted with his Republican colleagues to pass the new surprise plan on Monday.

The plan sprung by Senate Republicans splits the three off into three different Senate districts and only Cumberland County would be in a single Senate District, the 10th, represented by GOP Senator John Watkins, principal actor in Monday's unprecedented redistricting maneuver.

The Town of Farmville would be in the 10th District, if the plan becomes law, along with five other Prince Edward County precincts, a district that includes part of the City of Richmond, part of Henrico County, and part of Chesterfield, in addition to all of Cumberland and all of Powhatan.

The rest of Prince Edward County's precincts would be in the 15th District, represented by GOP Senator Frank Ruff, a district that would also include all of Martinsville, part of Danville, part of Halifax, part of Mecklenburg, part of Pittsylvania, along with Charlotte, Henry, and Lunenburg Counties.

So the plan, supported by Sen. Garrett, would see Prince Edward split, part of the county in a district that includes a portion of the City of Richmond and Henrico, the rest in a district that includes the City of Martinsville and part of Danville.

The redistricting plan, and the manner in which it was presented in the Senate, has been severely attacked by Senate Democrats, but also criticized by Governor McDonnell and Lieutenant Governor Bolling.

The plan has not passed the House of Delegates but if it does it will require the governor's signature and then must be approved the U.S. Department of Justice before it would take effect.

If the redistricting plan does take effect the local impact would be:

Buckingham-seven precincts in the 10th Senate District represented by Sen. Watkins: Curdsville, Gold Hill, Maysville, New Canton, New Store, Slate River and White Hall; and then two precincts in the 22nd Senate District represented by Sen. Garrett: Glenmore and Wrights. The Georgia Creek precinct is omitted in the redistricting plan, which was based on precincts that existed as of April 1, 2011. Georgia Creek became a precinct effective June 1, 2011. Prior to that, Georgia Creek precinct's residents were included in the New Canton precinct (see accompanying page one story).

Cumberland-the entire county is in the 10th Senate District, represented by Sen. Watkins.

Prince Edward-six precincts in the 10th Senate District of Sen. Watkins: Buffalo Heights, Center, Farmville, Lockett, Prospect and West End; and then four precincts in the 15th Senate District of Sen. Ruff: Darlington Heights, Hampden, Leigh, and Mount Pleasant.

The redistricting plan passed by the Senate on Monday would put all of Sen. Garrett's home county of Louisa in his 22nd district. Louisa is currently split between the 22nd and the 17th districts.

Reacting to the vote being taken when Sen. Marsh was at the inauguration, Spates observed, “I think the way they did it was, I don't know all the particulars, but I don't know if that was the proper way to do it.”

Farmville's town manager compared it with Town Council “waiting until two or three of your council members are gone to vote on some critical issue that they had an interest in.”