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Final decision on congressional districts delayed
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
RICHMOND--A final map of new congressional districts will have to wait a couple of weeks, after both the House and Senate recessed their redistricting session until the Monday after Easter.
Legislators went home after the House voted to approve a congressional map that essentially preserves the status quo, keeping all 11 congressmen in their districts and simply expanding those districts where needed to reach ideal population levels.
The Senate took the House bill and amended it with a Senate Democratic congressional map, which is different from the House version. The Senate plan makes the 4th District a majority-minority district, and makes the 3rd district a minority-influence district (the 3rd is currently the state's only majority-minority district).
The Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted--9-6 along party lines--to approve the Senate plan, but senators did not debate it nor vote on it on the Senate floor yesterday.
The House Republican plan comes from Del. Bill Janis, R-Goochland, who said he consulted all 11 congressmen about their own district lines in preparing his map.
"I didn't believe the purpose of this legislation should be to overturn the will of the electorate as it was expressed in 2010," Janis said during House debate over his bill.
His map puts more black voters into the 3rd District, rather than drawing lines that increase minority influence in other districts.
Some House Democrats were upset about that.
"Why wouldn't you do that if you had the ability to do it?" asked House Minority Leader Del. Ward Armstrong, D-Henry, about the prospect of a minority-influence district.
Armstrong said Janis should have looked harder at minority populations and voting patterns.
"What you have here today is business as usual, just like redistricting was done 10 years ago and 20 years ago, all the way back to Patrick Henry gerrymandering Madison," Armstrong said.
The House voted 71-23 in support of Janis' plan.
That will put the House in conflict with the Senate plan when lawmakers return.
The Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, creates two districts with strong minority populations. Unlike Janis, she consulted only one congressman, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-3rd, the state's lone black congressman.
Locke said her central objective in drawing her map was to "ensure that there's an opportunity for minority voters to vote for a candidate of their choice."