Am I The Only Republican in Virginia Who Thinks This Reeks?

Anyone really want to explain to me how this fits the definition of “slight tweaking” when it comes to State Senate and HOD districts?

I hate to say this guys… but this offends my sense of fair play.

No — I don’t really care if the Democrats would have done it to us.  Maybe they would have if the tables were turned… but that doesn’t mean that because other people are shallow and capricious, it then in turn gives us the excuse to do likewise.

I’m sure Kenton Ngo will have all the details sorted out and the maps available (he should really set up a tip jar).

I’m wincing pretty hard at this, guys.  This is dirty, dirty pool.   To do it on MLK Jr. day?  Doubles the embarrassment.

…and this?

Talk about an open palmed face slap to Lt. Governor Bill Bolling by the House and the Senate Republicans.

If the reports from the Richmond Times Dispatch’s Jeff Schapiro are right and the Governor is indeed as angry as everyone else is hearing… then why wouldn’t McDonnell simply guarantee to veto the measure?

Guys… this was a mistake.  Even if it’s legal and it passes muster, even if people forget that it ever happened, you’ve now established precedent.

…and all pendulums swing.

UPDATE:  Julian Walker with the Virginia Pilot has more:

Democrats said that increase illegally packs black voters into one territory rather than enhancing their strength commensurate with their 20 percent share of the state population.

“This plan is not about the citizens of the commonwealth, but about protecting the interests of those who currently hold office,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, a Hampton Democrat who offered the alternative Senate plan last year.

Other Democrats argued it is improper for the legislature to pass a map now after failing to approve a reapportionment plan last year as the state constitution requires.

Defending the Republican bill was Sen. Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, who said lawmakers have the authority to approve it this year. He blamed Democrats for the delay that inhibited earlier passage of a redistricting plan.

The map now heads to Gov. Bob McDonnell desk before facing a federal review for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

It also is the subject of lawsuits filed in state and federal court over the legislature’s tardiness in passing a plan.

Just made a big mess even messier, it seems.

You know… sometimes you get given an article from January 2012… and it just passes right by ya. Nevertheless, the background on the problems Virginia has had with redistricting are enough to choke a horse.

UPDATE x2:  Your new Senate districts are right here… and there are indeed some pretty wild districts in here.

UPDATE x3:  Vivian Paige sums up the feelings of the Democrats succinctly:

This is no “technical corrections” bill.  This is a coup.


UPDATE x4:  Chris Beer over at Mason Conservative derides the Senate Democrats for their poutrage… then reconsiders.

Maybe the GOP thinks this will help them, and I think that many of the down-the-line GOP supporters are cheerleading this, I fear the law of unintended consequences will hit us one more time.  The optics of taking advantage of the abscence of a civil rights-era senator going to the inaguration of a black president is pretty terrible to start with.  Second, how many times have we complained about Democrats (in Congress especially) throwing bills out there to vote on without proper time to consider it?  We can talk now, can we?

Great point…

  • Can you please explain what’s dirty about it? The new district is more geographically compact than the old one, which all else being equal should be a good thing.

    • Chris Beer

      What’s dirty is that this shotgunned in a way that we attack the left for doing in Congress. Its bad because senators literally had, what, half a day to deal with this? Its bad because we did by taking advantage of a civil rights-era black senator missing to go to our black presidents inauguration on MLK day. Its bad because it was an insider deal that bypassed every avenue for public comment and input. As a Republican there is a part that says, “hey, F them,” but think of the big picture. I hope McDonnell says he will veto this nonsense and end it before it causes us real damage.

    • Pat

      What is dirty is that it is a 36 page amendment – revealed on the floor of the Senate, and limited to 30 minutes of debate. It would take one longer than 30 minutes to read it through. Have you read the Bill – one would have to know every voting precinct in Virginia to know the changes.

    • DJRippert

      It’s dirty because Bill Bolling has “officially” said that he would not have voted for the redistricting measure. So, if Senator Marsh had been in attendance, the measure would have failed. Disgraceful behavior by the Senate Republicans.

  • You’re not alone, Shaun. Something as serious as redistricting should be done with deliberation and public input. This does not seem like a “technical correction” to the previous redistricting map (which implies fixing split precincts, for instance) but rather is a major change to the map. Moving one precinct or a census block from one district to another between censuses is acceptable; moving whole counties and cities is not.

  • Joshua Saunders

    There should be a defined way to do districts that should only change when population shifts from one region to another. It should be required to be sensibly shaped. Bobby Scotts’ district, among others, is an embarrassment as well. What this does, it gives the power to the party in charge not only against democrats, but as you’ve seen in florida, against republicans they do not like. If there were stringent rules that made congressional districts make sense this would not happen.

  • James Young

    “Would have done it to us”? They already did! Republican nominees won 57% of the votes cast for Senate in 2011, but only 50% of the seats. Democrat nominees won 43 % (or less; I’m counting all non-Republican votes as Democrat votes) of the votes cast for Senate in 2011, and 50% of the seats. I may be willing to accept that it’s a bad precedent, but the people who brought us the permanent campaign have little to complain about when Republicans finally join the battle. At least, little about which to REASONABLY complain.

  • And for dems who complain about the racial component..have you not seen bobby scotts district? Set up by dems long ago and hasn’t changed much since.

  • Kenton Ngo

    I’ve posted an update to the SD25 map clarifying that it is comparing OLD SD25 and NEW SD24. New SD25 is the newly-carved majority-minority district.

  • The fact that there is a new majority-minority district almost guarantees preclearance.

  • Hey Shaun, that article from the Virginian-Pilot is about the Congressional redistricting a year ago.

  • I see a lot of Senate Democrats claiming that this reapportionment is unconstitutional. I haven’t yet seen what they’re basing that on, but from my review, it appears to be legal.

    Article II, Section 6 requires that reapportionment occur beginning in 2011 and every ten years thereafter. The exact text reads: “The General Assembly shall reapportion the Commonwealth into electoral districts in accordance with this section in the year 2011 and every ten years thereafter.”

    I’m assuming that the Dems are claiming that this language bars the GA from reapportioning in a year other than 10 years after 2011 or thereafter. But Article IV, Section 14 states that the General Assembly has the power to enact legislation in all cases not specifically barred by the Constitution, and that grants of power in the Constitution don’t bar the GA from acting on the same subject in a different way. The exact text reads: “The authority of the General Assembly shall extend to all subjects of legislation not herein forbidden or restricted; and a specific grant of authority in this Constitution upon a subject shall not work a restrict of its authority upon the same or any other subject.”

    Basically, just because the Constitution requires apportionment every 10 years, that doesn’t mean the GA can’t reapportion in another year if it chooses to and isn’t barred from doing so. There’s no limitations in Article IV on reapportioning in another year.

    So, as far as I can tell, it’s not unconstitutional.

    • Dan

      Brian, courts have upheld technical amendments, but never something this substantial. And there is a clear discrepency between the clause granting general power and the clause granting a restricted power to draw the electoral districts. The redistricting powers are restricted by the date of the session. That was why it was so important to get a compromise bill passed last year. You’re essentially reading the general power clause to grant all powers that were restricted elsewhere in the Constitution (ignoring the “not herein forbidden or RESTRICTED)… clearly that is a tortured (and unwise) result.

      I’m not sure that a small-government conservative such as yourself would be satisfied with the consequences if the VA Supreme Court ever rules that way.

    • Heaven help me, but I think I have to tentatively agree with Brian on this one. Article II, Section 6 says when the GA MUST reapportion (i.e., at a minimum, they have to in 2011, 2021, 2031, etc), but it doesn’t say they can ONLY do so in those years. To conclude that no mid-decade reapportionment is allowed would be to read a word into the Constitution that simply isn’t there. That’s also where Article IV, Section 14 comes in: the GA is granted specific authority to reapportion in 2011, 2021, etc., but that grant (a mandate, really) cannot ” work a restriction of its authority upon the same or any other subject.”

      The last sentence in that article, however, might be the Democrats’ best argument. It says “The omission in this Constitution of specific grants of authority heretofore conferred shall not be construed to deprive the General Assembly of such authority, or to indicate a change of policy in reference thereto, unless such purpose plainly appear.” I suppose one could argue that the power to reapportion mid-decade was “plainly” omitted from Article II, Section 6, but that seems like a hard argument to make.

      Also, this seems very similar to the (infamous?) case that arose out of the 2003 redistricting in Texas. The US Supreme Court eventually upheld the vast majority of that plan. The fact that this plan creates an additional majority-minority district (as Brian points out above) gives it a good shot of surviving a challenge (assuming it gets signed).

    • Mike Barrett

      Now I know what President Clinton meant when he said it depends upon what the definition of is is.

  • We pretty much declared war on the Dems in the state senate today. If they do anything underhanded to us in the next two decades, we can’t get upset at them.

    • Of course, the Democrats have done all sorts of nasty and despicable things to Republicans in Richmond over the last three decades… so there’s a history here. Still, whether the battle was proportional seating on committees or this, doing likewise and following the precedent the Dems have established? Not cool…

  • Eric the 1/2 Troll

    Brian, do you really think this redistricting is keeping with the intent of Article II, Section 6? Or is intent no longer relevant?

    • I won’t pretend to speak for Brian (nor would he want me to, I’m sure), but as far as I’m concerned, no, intent is not relevant nor should it be. We can’t know intent with the degree of certainty necessary to do constitutional or statutory interpretation (assuming there even is one intent in a legislative body full of people with different ideas and different intents). If legislators didn’t mean what they wrote, then they should have written it differently; I, for one, don’t want courts going back and trying to guess what was running through the heads of individual legislators. It’s a fool’s errand.

  • Dan

    Thanks for the honest post, Shaun. The bill is almost undoubtedly unconstitutional (VA not US), and that’s why Bolling wouldn’t vote for it. This situation blows my mind. I expect this stuff in the House, but not from the Senate… even after last year’s (mild) divisiveness.

  • This was a fight that did not need to be picked, period.

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  • SE VA MWC Alum

    Shaun, good article. My biggest problem with this is not the map – the old was lousy – but the precedents set. I see three dangerous precedents being set:

    1.) Redistricting every time control of a chamber changes – Would the new majority party try to do this every time. This dangerous because it circumvents representative government. Currently the politicians do choose their voters after a census but they are pretty much stuck with these districts until the next census. THis could even open the floodgates to something far worse – redistricting before every election even if the majority doesnt change. Couldnt a majority party then (in theory) redistrict every two years based on the latest election results? In practice, its much easier do these once a precedent has been set.

    2.) Redistricting by floor amendment – Not only did this redistricting not have the typical round of public hearings (window dressing though they almost always are), by doing a floor amendment it denied even a committee meeting. Virginians had no opportunity to do comment on this whatsoever.
    3.) Use of a senator’s absence to pass legislation that otherwise wouldnt pass – What could be the ramifications of leaves of absence in the future. If an issue would be a close vote, if voted upon, might groups of senators (political caucuses, regional groups etc.), essentially “lie in wait” until a known opponent’s absence and then tack their controversial proposal onto other bills as floor amendments?

  • Why wasn’t the Senator in attendance doing the job he was elected to do like the other 39 Senators rather than going off to DC just to rub elbows with his friends. Certainly he knew the risk and probably was given the advice by other Demo’s not to go. He could of watched on TV like I did. This happens all the time in politics. Just feel so sorry for the Dem’s. The Dem’s have upped their game, about time Repubs did too.

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