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Congressional districts take center stage in Virginia

Legislators at odds over boundaries

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Virginia legislators this week are turning their attention to redrawing the state's 11 congressional districts during week two of a special redistricting session.

Republicans, who hold a majority in the Virginia House of Delegates, are proposing a map that wouldn’t do much to change districts — mainly contracting the area of Northern Virginia districts to reflect population shifts toward the outer D.C. suburbs and away from rural, southern areas of the state.

But the Democrat-led Senate wants to create a new "minority-influence" district with a higher number of black voters from Richmond and counties to the south.

Lawmakers are charged with redrawing House, Senate and congressional districts based on population shifts revealed in last year’s census. Debate this week over congressional districts likely will carry a partisan tone, if it sounds anything like battles last week over the House of Delegates and, especially, the state Senate districts.

On Thursday, Senate Democrats approved a map of Senate districts that was opposed by all 18 Republicans. Rolled into one bill along with a Republican-drawn House map, the legislation is expected to be either vetoed or amended by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell within seven days.

The House met briefly Monday to give final approval to the legislation before it was sent to Mr. McDonnell, a Republican.

Senate Democrats gained passage of their Senate plan by combining it with the House plan when they sent it back to the House for approval after making some slight amendments. They succeeded — at least so far — when the House passed the package of both maps 85 to 9.

Republicans, who uniformly opposed the Senate plan even though many voted for the legislative package, offered their approval somewhat reluctantly. Delegate John A. Cosgrove, Chesapeake Republican, accused the Senate plan of slicing and dicing Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Prince William County and Hanover.

"I just hope everyone understands this vote will be extremely difficult," Mr. Cosgrove said. "I hope there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, because this will be awful."

With the House and Senate districts behind them for now, lawmakers turn their attention to the congressional districts. The House is expected to approve a map by mid-week and send it to the Senate for amending.

The GOP plan is supported by Virginia’s congressional delegation because it aims to protect incumbents. According to a report in Politico, the map was completed last month under the guidance of the eight incumbent Republicans and agreed to by the incumbent three Democrats — including Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, a Democrat whose 11th District would get a boost.

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