Redistricting returns to political arena

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December 1, 2011

11:53 PM

Richmond politics are heating up once again in preparation for the 2012 Virginia General Assembly session, which is scheduled to begin in January. The newly reinstated Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment (R-3) is advocating another examination of the layout of the state’s representation districts.

Redistricting occurs in each state every 10 years if the census results indicate that reapportionment is needed. Norment and his Republican peers —who now effectively control both houses of the General Assembly — are using this as justification for another reevaluation.

However, some are expressing concerns that minority party politicians could refuse to come to the session, denying the majority party the quorum required to call a vote, as has happened before in Texas.
Norment is particularly upset with the new layout of his district.

“It’s ridiculous the way they’ve spread it out,” Norment said in a statement. “I represent twelve jurisdictions, stretching from Suffolk to King and Queen County.”

The City of Williamsburg was also removed from Norment’s district and placed in that of Sen. John Miller (D-1).

Many expressed concerns regarding where Williamsburg would eventually be placed.
Williamsburg Mayor and professor of economics Clyde Haulman went so far as to write to the governor during the process earlier this year, expressing his concerns over the possibility of splitting the city between two districts.

“I do not understand the motivation to go after Williamsburg,” Young Democrats President Katie Deabler ’12 said. “Localities being split is a serious concern.”

Miller is less concerned about the new maps. He believes that there are more important issues to be considered by the General Assembly.

“I’ve just spent two days with the Senate Finance Committee,” Miller said in a statement. “The Commonwealth has some big problems. People want us to concentrate on transportation, education and filling the budget gap, not revisiting redistricting.”

The redistricting done in the last General Assembly session earlier this year was not accomplished easily. Governor Bob McDonnell (R) proceeded to authorize Executive Order 31, creating a Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting.

Law students and undergraduates from the College were on the teams selected in a Governor’s Commission competition for redistricting, and the council considered their plans.

After the Commission’s recommendations, the legislature submitted a plan to McDonnell.
The redistricting done in the last General Assembly session earlier this year was not accomplished easily.

The governor was offered one option by the General Assembly where both houses planned redistricting separately.

This was at a time when Democrats controlled the State Senate and Republicans controlled the House of Delegates. Voicing concerns over the legality of the final product and the large number of cities it divided, McDonnell vetoed the plan.

The plan was redrafted, sent to McDonnell again and approved.

“They obviously had their own agenda when they were moving forward with it,” Alex Bramsen ’12, one undergraduate team member, said at the time of the original redistricting. “We were grateful to Senator Miller, but realistically we knew that we were not going to receive the level of serious consideration that would be required.”

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