DOJ OKs Virginia congressional redistricting map

The U.S. Department of Justice has signed off on Virginia’s congressional redistricting plan passed earlier this year by the General Assembly after a months-long standoff in 2011 and multiple legal challenges.

The plan, which received input from all 11 of Virginia’s incumbent members of Congress, largely shores up each district and likely preserves Republicans’ 8-3 majority for the next 10 years. The new map is already causing some shifts in plans. Retired Air Force General John Douglass, who had originally planned to run against Republican Rep. Frank Wolf in the 10th district in Northern Virginia, is now running against Republican Rep. Robert Hurt in the 5th district, as Mr. Douglass’s Fauquier County home lies in Mr. Hurt’s district under the new map.

The House of Delegates and state Senate were at loggerheads over competing plans last year. The Republican-led House pushed a plan that boosted the black voting age population in Democratic Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott’s 3rd District, which meanders from Richmond to Newport News, while the Democrat-led Senate drew a map that made Republican Rep. Randy Forbes’ southeastern district the state’s lone majority-minority district and turned Mr. Scott’s into a second “minority influence” district.

Once Republicans gained effective control of the Senate after the 2011 elections, though, the House plan quickly cleared the assembly this year and was signed by Gov. Bob McDonnell. Two separate lawsuits, one filed in state court and one in federal court, asked a court to draw the new lines, but they were both dismissed.

“We are pleased that the Department of Justice has recognized the plan conforms with federal law and we are looking forward to elections this fall,” said J. Tucker Martin, a spokesman for Mr. McDonnell.

Virginia is one of a handful of mostly Southern states that must pre-clear its redistricting plans with the Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 because of a history of discrimination at the polls.

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