Morning Read: Virginia GOP Sneaks Controversial Redistricting Map Through Senate

While the nation’s eyes were glued to the presidential inauguration Monday, Virginia Senate Republicans stealthily passed legislation that would redraw Virginia’s Senate districts in favor of their party.

The 40-member Virginia Senate is split evenly between both parties: 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. But one Democrat, Senator Henry Marsh—a big player in Virginia’s Civil Right’s movement in the ‘60’s and '70s—was absent from Richmond because he was attending the inauguration.

With Marsh away, the bill passed with a 20-19 vote. Republicans defended the bill because it created a majority black district in Southside Virginia. But as blogger Benjamin Tribbitt points out, the map may create a new minority district, but it decimates some Democratic stronghold districts. By his count, 7 Democratic districts could be vulnerable this election, meaning the 20-20 Senate composition could dramatically change to a 27-13 Republican controlled chamber.  Sen. Creigh Deeds, the Democratic nominee for governor in 2009, saw his district eliminated altogether.

The redistricting map still needs to be approved by the House, the governor and, because Virginia has a history of racial discrimination, would also need approval from the Department of Justice. And none of that is a sure bet.

Talking Points Memo reports that Gov. Bob McDonnell was also surprised by the new map. “I certainly don’t think that’s a good way to do business,” McDonnell said to reporters Tuesday morning.

Democrat Sen. Chap Petersen wrote on his blog that the map completely remakes the districts the legislature passed in 2010, and said the issue would be headed to a courthouse.

Make sure to check out all of NBC4’s inaguaration coverage; viewers’ pictures, local participation in the parade , Marion Barry’s critique of the president’s speech and more


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