Tuesday, November 13, 2001

RICHMOND (AP) A quirk in state law may have left tens of thousands of Virginians misrepresented in the state Senate or not represented at all, a newspaper reported yesterday.
General Assembly leaders are debating whether senators represent the districts they were elected to in 1999 or the new ones adopted this spring.
Almost 74,000 people in Virginia Beach and Chesapeake along with another 45,000 in the counties surrounding Charlottesville may be unrepresented, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported.
Some lawmakers say some voters don’t have one senator, while others actually have two.
Other legislators insist the one-man, one-vote standard has not been violated, even though hundreds of thousands of people across the state are represented by senators whom they never had the opportunity to vote for or against.
Every 10 years, states are required by the U.S. Constitution to adjust legislative and congressional district lines to reflect shifts in population.
In the past, special elections for the state Senate were held in old districts. This year, however, the newly drawn boundaries are being used because of a 1990 law guiding elections for the first time.
Two special elections this year brought the Senate-district confusion to light.
State Sen. Harry B. Blevins, Chesapeake Republican, was chosen in September to succeed J. Randy Forbes, who resigned to run for Congress. Only 84 of the 53,000 Virginia Beach voters in Mr. Blevins’ district voted for him, said Karen Beauchamp, chairman of the Virginia Beach Republican Committee.
The change in Mr. Blevins’ district caused confusion among city residents, Miss Beauchamp said. “People went to vote for him and couldn’t.”
The turnout attracted little attention because Mr. Blevins was unopposed and because he lives within both the old and new district boundaries.
The second special election scheduled for Dec. 18 will fill the seat held by Democrat Sen. Emily Couric, who died last month after battling pancreatic cancer.
Democrats nominated Delegate R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County, who lives in the new district, but not the old one.
Republicans in Madison and Greene counties and parts of Albemarle and Orange counties are upset that they have been pushed out of the district and cannot vote in the election.
“That means we’re not represented for two years. The one-person, one-vote don’t stand,” said David Myers, chairman of the Greene County Republicans, who are now constituents of Augusta County Republican Emmett W. Hanger. “I’m sure Emmett will come over and represent us, but we haven’t elected him.”
Virginia’s other 38 state senators were elected under the old political maps, and they are not scheduled to run in the new districts for another two years.
Sen. Kevin G. Miller, Harrisonburg Republican, believes state senators will continue handling requests from constituents in their old district until new elections in 2003.
“We’re all state senators, and I represent all citizens and I certainly don’t ignore the people who were in my district when I was elected in 1999,” said Mr. Miller, who is chairman of the Senate committee that oversees election and redistricting laws.
Delegate Marian Van Landingham, Alexandria Democrat, said some of her Fairfax County constituents have been told by the local registrar that Madison E. Marye, a Democrat from Montgomery County, is their senator even though he lives 250 miles away.
A General Assembly committee recognized the potential for problems three years after the special-elections law was adopted. The panel decided not to repeal it because once a new redistricting map is adopted, localities change precinct boundaries to correspond with the plan.

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