- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2011

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell vetoed a redistricting plan approved by the General Assembly last week, citing “significant concerns” that the Democrat-controlled Senate plan splits too many towns, cities and counties, allows too much deviation in districts’ population and shows evidence of partisan gerrymandering.

“I have serious concerns that such a plan may violate state and federal law and could potentially subject Virginia to costly and unnecessary litigation,” Mr. McDonnell said in a letter to General Assembly members outlining his reasons for the veto.

Fresh from fighting Democrats over the proposed plan, Senate Republicans applauded the Friday decision. They had uniformly opposed the Democrat-drawn map, which was approved 22 to 18 down party lines.

Hoping to gain easier passage for the their plan, Senate Democrats rolled it into one bill that included a less controversial map offered in the Republican-led House and approved 86 to 8.

While Mr. McDonnell, a Republican, had the option to veto, amend or approve the bill, GOP lawmakers predicted he would choose to either veto or amend. Republicans in the Senate called for Democrats to construct a new plan from scratch.

“The Senate Democrats crafted a map that placed their own partisan interests above the best interests of Virginians, leaving Gov. McDonnell little choice but to veto it,” said Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Stephen D. Newman, Lynchburg Republican. “The Senate Democrats need to start from a clean slate and work across the aisle to craft a plan that respects the interests of the people of Virginia.”

Mr. McDonnell echoed a complaint often cited by Republicans during the debate — that the map splits too many towns, cities and counties. While the House plan splits 4 percent more localities than the current map, the Senate map splits 25 percent more, he said.

The governor also cited concern that the maps wouldn’t pass muster with the U.S. Department of Justice because they would fail to comply with the Voting Rights Act, which requires Southern states to protect minority districts.

The Voting Rights Act was another point of contention among legislators. Democrats accused Republicans of trying to pack black voters into districts, while Republicans accused Democrats of drawing districts resembling ink blots in order to form more minority-majority districts.

The House and Senate are next scheduled to meet late afternoon on April 25 to consider congressional redistricting maps and, now, the governor’s veto. Mr. McDonnell told the Senate he wants a map that draws votes from both parties.

“I encourage you to re-evaluate this legislation in light of these expressed concerns and begin work immediately to develop a plan that is clearly lawful and can ensure bipartisan support,” he said.