- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Delegate Robert G. Marshall won’t likely forget that his Prince William district experienced the largest population surge of any when he looks at the redistricting map drawn by House Republicans.

Mr. Marshall represents 35 precincts right now. The proposed map shrinks that to fewer than 10.

The map, released late Tuesday, is one of several proposals for redrawing 100 House and 40 Senate districts in the General Assembly and 11 congressional districts that Virginia lawmakers will consider when they meet for a special redistricting session beginning Monday.

“I’m losing areas I’ve represented for 20 years,” said Mr. Marshall, Manassas Republican, who currently has 190,000 constituents. He said his new district would contain 44 percent new land area and split his current district among six proposed districts.

“It was basically a state Senate district - that’s how much it lost,” he said, referring to the fact that Senate districts typically contain many more residents.

Each of the 100 House districts ideally will have about 80,000 residents, while Senate districts should have about 200,000 residents.

On the Senate side, Sen. Mark R. Herring, Loudoun Democrat, is the “poster child” for an oversized district, said Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, Arlington Democrat. About 350,000 people live in his district.

While House Democrats have said they don’t plan on drawing a map, both parties in the Senate have submitted plans. Sen. Janet D. Howell, Fairfax Democrat, and = Sen. John Watkins, Chesterfield Republican, offered their party’s map.

The maps leave some lawmakers in population-shrinking areas of southern Virginia living in the same district. Northern Virginia legislators in the state’s highest-growth areas just outside the Capital Beltway could see their districts split into several pieces.

Meanwhile, the maps show four Republican senators living in two districts and leave four House Democrats living outside their districts - including House Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong, Henry Democrat.

Accusations of partisanship already have surfaced. Sen. Thomas K. Norment Jr., James City Republican, leader of the Senate minority, told the Associated Press that the Democrats’ map is “an outrageously partisan redistricting plan that will go down as one of the most notorious examples of gerrymandering in history.”

But Senate Democrats contend that their map will be politically competitive for both parties. They say 28 of the 40 proposed districts would have been carried by Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell in his 2009 victory if they had been in place then, and 23 would have been carried by former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, if they were in effect in 2005.

Protecting the influence of minority groups also has been a concern of lawmakers. Mrs. Whipple, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said the Senate plan retains five minority-majority districts, the same number as does now.

And, she added, the Senate plan doesn’t draw any legislators out of their districts - unlike the House plan.

“Everybody’s still within their district,” Mrs. Whipple said. “I think in most cases people keep the core of the current district, but there are still changes in all of them.”

When the legislative session concluded last month, attention turned to redistricting as officials work to approve new state and congressional districts in time for the November elections. After the U.S. census is performed every 10 years, states are constitutionally mandated to redraw district lines that reflect population shifts.

Virginia’s population has grown by 1 million over the past decade, now topping 8 million residents

In addition to the newly unveiled House and Senate maps, college students in Virginia drew 57 maps for a redistricting competition, and Virginia’s members of Congress have agreed on a map that protects their districts.

While Mr. McDonnell appointed a bipartisan redistricting commission to give advice to the General Assembly, he does not plan to introduce a map based on commission recommendations.

Senate and House committees will hold public hearings on redistricting across the state Thursday and Saturday.

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