RICHMOND — The House Privileges and Elections Committee approved a bill Friday that would push the state's 2012 congressional primaries from June to August in anticipation of a possible delay from the U.S. Department of Justice in pre-clearing a recently approved map.
The Republican-drawn plan, passed last month, is facing legal challenges in both state and federal court. The Virginia Supreme Court recently allowed a suit filed in Richmond City Circuit Court to go forward after Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II had challenged the lower court's jurisdiction in ruling on the suit. It charges that the redistricting plan passed this session is unconstitutional because it was not approved in 2011.
Mr. Cuccinelli filed a pre-clearance suit in U.S. District Court for the District and submitted the map to the U.S. Department of Justice in a bid to expedite the process. He has requested that the General Assembly approve emergency legislation to push the primary date back in case the pre-clearance process, required under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, is not completed in time.
The bill from S. Chris Jones, Suffolk Republican, which does contain an emergency clause, would move the June 12 primary date to Aug. 21. The bill also allows the State Board of Elections to postpone dates and modify deadlines if the pre-clearance process is not completed in time.
If the primaries are postponed, it would mark the second consecutive year they would be pushed back. Primaries for state House and Senate races were pushed to August in 2011 to accommodate a special redistricting session in which the legislature redrew lines for the state's 140 House and Senate districts based on population estimates from the 2010 U.S. Census.
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