RICHMOND | A day after the House of Delegates passed a redistricting map by wide margins, the state Senate on Thursday advanced along party lines a map heavily criticized by Republicans in the minority.
The GOP-led House approved its plan on Wednesday, with 28 Democrats joining Republicans to pass it 86 to 8. But a map drawn by Senate Democrats was approved on a 22-18 vote in the Senate, drawing contentious debate Thursday as Republicans accused Democrats of gerrymandering districts to serve their own interest.
"We very, very much wanted to pass a plan out of this body that is fair, that protects communities of common interests and moreover is legally sound," said Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, Winchester Republican.
Republican lawmakers say Gov. Robert F. McDonnell is likely to veto the Democrats plan. After both plans are approved by both chambers, the governor will have seven days to sign, amend or veto them.
"This map is so messed up, I dont see how the governor can amend it," said Sen. Ralph Smith, Roanoke Republican.
Earlier in the day, members of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee rejected the map drawn up by Mrs. Vogel and Sen. John Watkins, Chesterfield Republican.
Democrats criticized the Republicans for "packing" blacks into districts to minimize their voting impact. Sen. A. Don McEachin, Richmond Democrat, said the map wasted black votes - just like the map passed the last time districts were redrawn under the guidance of a Republican Senate majority, he said.
"In my opinion the map passed 10 years ago put us all on individual plantations," Mr. McEachin said.
In a fruitless effort to win approval for his map, Mr. Watkins said it kept more counties together under one district than any other plan submitted except for the map drawn by a bipartisan redistricting commission formed by Mr. McDonnell.
The commission has held public hearings throughout the state and suggested maps, but the governor hasnt formally backed a bill incorporating the recommendations.
Mr. Watkins said his plan split the same number of cities and fewer towns than the Senate Democrats' plan. He said it also deviated no more than 0.5 percent from the ideal population, in contrast to the Democratic plan, which used a maximum deviation of 2 percent.
"I think this plan is the more compliant plan to be brought forward with regard to one person, one vote," he said.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling - who presides over the Senate during session - jumped into the debate on Thursday, calling on Mr. McDonnell to reject the Senate plan in favor of recommendations by the bipartisan commission.
"While the current House plan has received strong bipartisan support in committee and the full House, with over 90 percent of the members voting for the plan, the Senate leaderships plan has been derided as the epitome of partisan gerrymandering by Republicans and independent observers alike," Mr. Bolling said.
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