- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2011

Democrats persuaded reluctant Republicans to vote for their second attempt at a Senate redistricting map, approving the map on Thursday after extensive closed-door efforts to draw a plan they hope wont be vetoed by Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Senate Democrats said the second map satisfies complaints of partisan gerrymandering the governor made when he vetoed the first map, which was passed on a party-line 22-18 vote earlier this month. Mr. McDonnell had said the plan was unlikely to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department, saying it split too many localities and created districts that werent compact.

“We worked three very long and tedious days,” said Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax Democrat and chairman of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee. “Democrats are keeping true to our promise that we would negotiate in good faith and have put forward a plan.”

Approved 32-5 on Thursday afternoon, the plan splits fewer precincts and localities, reduces by one the number of districts Prince William County is split among, and gives Virginia Beach two districts instead of one.

Calling it “unacceptable,” Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. nevertheless said he offered a “yes” vote only to give Mr. McDonnell the bipartisan support he needed to approve a plan.

“It is a slight mischaracterization to say those on my side have agreed on this,” said Mr. Norment, James City Republican. “You can agree to things on an amicable basis that reflects a collaborative experience, or you can agree to something because you dont have latitude.”

The new map cuts the College of William & Mary out of Mr. Norments district after he represented the school for 20 years.

“Its kind of like when, as little children, your parents put your dinner in front of you and you can either eat it or not eat it,” he said.

Legislators were working under a deadline to approve new districts for all 100 House seats and 40 Senate seats in time for the August primary. Virginia is required to submit redistricting plans to the U.S. Justice Department in time for them to be approved before candidates need to be certified for the August primary. That would put the deadline to submit plans around May 27.

The House was expected Thursday to approve the plan, which was rolled together with a slightly modified plan for 100 House seats that delegates approved by a 90-8 vote earlier in the week.

Hours of negotiations began when the General Assembly met Monday and continued into Thursday afternoon, as a marathon Republican caucus meeting forced legislators to push back a meeting of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee. When the committee finally voted, three Republicans on the 15-member panel opposed the new map.

Waiting for the Senate to vote on the new plan, the House delayed its session so many times Thursday afternoon that delegates began yelling “no” when Speaker William J. Howell, Stafford Republican, called for a vote on whether to adjourn.

Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw, Fairfax Democrat, had originally said Democrats would simply pass the same map again, daring the governor to veto it. He said if Mr. McDonnell vetoes the plan a second time, the Senate will not pass a third plan. If the governor does not approve the second plan, a federal court could end up drawing the new maps.