Virginia's Redistricting News 
(July 1, 2001-October 22, 2001)

 

 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." October 22, 2001
 Richmond Times-Dispatch: "GOP Expected to Strengthen Grip on House of Delegates." October 21, 2001
 Washington Post: "N.Va.'s House Democrats On New Turf." October 17, 2001
 Richmond Times-Dispatch: "Redistricting plan receives approval." October 17, 2001
 Richmond Times-Dispatch: "House Majority Likely for GOP." October 14, 2001
 Los Angeles Times: "Judge Clears Way for Va. Elections." September 22, 2001
 Associated Press: "Virginia Democrats argue for 1991 districts." September 11, 2001
 Wall Street Journal:  "Virginia Redistricting Plan Tests Bush Pledge of More Diverse GOP."  August 30, 2001
 Richmond Times-Dispatch : "Remap Plan Retains Black District." August 18, 2001
 Washington Post: "Election Redistricting Proposals." July 22, 2001 
 Associated Press: "Judge asks U.Va. law professor for help with redistricting lawsuit." July 20, 2001
 Washington Post: "When They Draw Lines." July 13, 2001
 Washington Post: "Democrats Pin Election Hopes on Legal Action: State Court Suit Challenges Redistricting by Republicans." July 12, 2001
 Washington Post : "Blacks Question Va. Redistricting Plan." July 10, 2001

 
Washington Post: "Va. Draws House Districts to Aid GOP." July 10, 2001
  Richmond Times Dispatch: "Redistrict plan held racially divisive: General Assembly panel holds public hearings." July 1, 2001

More recent redistricting news from Virginia

Virginia redistricting news from April 11, 2001 - June 29, 2001

Virginia redistricting news from February 15, 2001 - April 10, 2001

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
October 22, 2001

Virginia Gets Justice Nod

The Justice Department last week signed off on a Virginia House map that protects new Rep. Randy Forbes (R) by dramatically reducing the number of black and Democratic voters in his Hampton Roads district.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D) had urged the Justice Department to block the plan. In a letter last week to the department, Scott, who's black, called the map "retrogressive" because it shifts 36,000 black voters from the 4th district, which Forbes narrowly won in a racially-tinged special election in June, to Scott's 3rd district, based in Richmond.

For his part, Forbes had little to say last week about the remap squabble. "Redistricting just seems to be a small issue right now," he said. "We're fighting a war."

Richmond Times-Dispatch
GOP Expected to Strengthen Grip on House of Delegates
By Larry ODell
October 21, 2001

Republicans and Democrats agree that the GOP, which controlled redistricting for the first time this year, will strengthen its grip on the House of Delegates in next month's elections. But that doesn't mean the campaign lacks intrigue.

Will legislative races in northern Virginia be affected by the gubernatorial candidates' fight over a sales tax referendum to pay for transportation improvements for the Washington, D.C., suburbs?

Can Democrats hold their losses to a minimum by persuading voters to punish the GOP for this year's state budget impasse?

Does a public preoccupied with terrorist attacks, anthrax scares and U.S. bombing raids in Afghanistan even care about these races?

Those are among the questions that will be answered Nov. 6 when Virginia voters elect 100 delegates, as well as a governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

``For anything below the governor's race, it is a bigger challenge than usual this year to get the attention of the voters,'' said Tom Morris, a political analyst and president of Emory & Henry College.

However, operatives for both parties say the public is coming around. J. Scott Leake, director of the Joint Republican Caucus, said unexpectedly large crowds showed up on a recent campaign swing by GOP leaders through southside and southwest Virginia.

``There's a pent-up desire to get out and do something,'' Leake said. ``For some people, it's going to the movies or playing miniature golf. For the party faithful, it's going to campaign events.''

G. Baker Ellett, director of the House Democratic Caucus, said some of his party's incumbents are getting more attention than usual ``because they've been communicating with their constituents--be calm, remain united, help out where you can'' in the aftermath of last month's terrorist attacks.

The biggest factor in the House elections, however, is clearly reapportionment. Republicans redrew legislative boundaries to their advantage this year after taking undisputed control of the General Assembly in the 1990s.

``A redistricting year might be the time when legislators have more control over the outcome of the election than the voters do,'' Morris said.

A dozen Democrats, including such prominent leaders as Minority Leader C. Richard Cranwell of Roanoke County and former House Speaker Thomas W. Moss Jr. of Norfolk, retired after they were given unappealing districts.

Republicans control 53 of the 100 House seats. Morris said the combination of retirements and new, GOP-friendly districts across the state could enable the party to expand its majority to as many as 60 seats.

Ellett said that seems like a reasonable number. Leake said Republicans will gain ``a comfort margin that will be a huge political difference compared to the first two years'' of GOP control, but he refused to predict a specific number of seats.

Democrats will try to minimize the losses by hammering Republicans on the budget impasse issue in the final two weeks of the campaign, Ellett said. Democrats say the Republican-controlled legislature's unprecedented failure to make midcourse corrections in the two-year budget shows the GOP is not ready to lead.

``They criticized and harped and hemmed and hawed for years, and then they finally got control of state government and they drove it into a ditch,'' Ellett said. ``We're going to hit that message hard.''

Leake said voters are more interested in candidates' ideas than rehashing the budget debacle.

``I don't see it being relevant to anything, and I wonder why the Democrats are using it so much,'' he said. ``Maybe it's the only thing they have to talk about.''

In traffic-choked northern Virginia, some Republican candidates could be hurt by GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Earley's opposition to a sales tax increase referendum for transportation projects.

The issue has so divided the region's Republican lawmakers that one, Sen. Warren Barry of Fairfax County, last week took the extraordinary step of endorsing Earley's opponent, Mark Warner. The Democrat favors the referendum, which has broad appeal among the region's frustrated commuters.

Northern Virginia incumbents facing tough challenges include Republicans John H. ``Jack'' Rust Jr. and Thomas M. Bolvin, and Democrat Kristen J. Amundson.

Democrats James M. Shuler, Benny Keister and John H. Tate Jr. are in tight races in the southwest. Leake predicts substantial GOP gains in that region and in southside, in part because of Democratic retirements.

Two independents are believed to have reasonably good chances of winning open seats:

John Conrad, a former vice mayor of Richmond, has the backing of retiring Republican Del. Anne G. ``Panny'' Rhodes. Republican Bradley P. Marrs and Democrat Edward B. Barber, a member of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, are the other candidates.

Petersburg Mayor Rosalyn Dance is running as an independent for the seat being vacated by Democrat Jay W. DeBoer. Dance was recruited by Republican House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. to run against Democrat Fenton L. Bland.

Washington Post
N.Va.'s House Democrats On New Turf; GOP-Led Redistricting Weakens Strongholds
By Lisa Rein
October 17, 2001

Belle Haven, with its stately homes, sprawling lawns and old maple trees that reach to the sky, tilted Republican last November, choosing President Bush over Al Gore 750 to 708. Now Virginia Republicans hope their new electoral map will make the Fairfax County precinct of swing voters just outside the Beltway fertile ground on Nov. 6.

No wonder this is where Democrat Kristen J. Amundson is fighting for her political life.

"These are all total strangers," sighed the normally upbeat delegate from Virginia's 44th Legislative District, walking up Windsor Road one afternoon last week in white sneakers and black stretch pants, a bottle of Evian in her bag.

The General Assembly -- controlled for the first time during redistricting by Republicans -- reconfigured Amundson's district south of Alexandria with close to 25,000 new voters, snatching two safe Democratic precincts and adding three Republican-leaning ones, including Belle Haven and wealthy Westgate.

Redistricting, the once-a-decade redrawing of election districts to reflect population shifts reported in the latest census, is jostling an already challenging campaign across the vote-rich suburbs of Northern Virginia.

By making traditional Democratic strongholds harder to win, the legislature's GOP leaders hope the 100 House seats they redrew will consolidate their power in Washington suburbs that already have produced many Republican officeholders.

Now Amundson, who squeaked into the House of Delegates two years ago by 300 votes, is spending three hours a day on the phone raising money ($145,000 so far) to pay for 15 mailings to voters, including last week's personal account of her struggle against breast cancer. The 44th is one of the state's most closely watched legislative races this year as Republicans eye three open seats and one or two swing districts in Northern Virginia.

Amundson is knocking on doors, acting like she's on her first run for office. "Hi! I'm your new delegate!" Amundson tells Patricia FitzGibbons as she hands her a flier. "Sorry, I'm conservative," the woman replies, and the candidate moves on.

No district is identical to what it was before last spring, as high-growth areas in the outer suburbs gained at the expense of slower-growing closer-in ones. In Fairfax County alone, close to 300,000 of 1 million residents will find themselves in new House and Senate districts. The Senate faces reelection in two years.

The changes have raised the stakes for Democratic incumbents thrown into unfriendly GOP territory, particularly near the Capital Beltway, the de facto line dividing the Washington suburbs between Republicans (outside) and Democrats (inside). Challengers suddenly have found new opportunities.

The competitive environment has spawned a season of prodigious fundraising for a part-time, low-name-recognition job that pays $17,640 a year and is suffering, candidates say, from low interest from voters numbed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Those who are politically active in both parties are angry that years cultivating their elected officials with appeals to neighborhood causes have been disrupted for hard-to-fathom reasons. Streets and developments and even Zip codes have been sliced into multiple House districts whose only logic appears to be partisan politics.

"We didn't want to be split up," said Steve De Angioletti, civic leader of a Falls Church area subdivision that has been divided. "Now, access to the delegates will be less. We just lost our clout."

When the Hybla Valley Farms Civic Association off Route 1 realized that it had been moved into Democrat Marian Van Landingham's district, the group put her photo on the cover of its monthly newsletter under the headline, "Who Is This Woman?" referring to an article inside.

Even GOP members in safe seats are adjusting to a landscape of new neighborhoods with unfamiliar concerns and new geography, where campaigning door-to-door may mean driving farm-to-farm.

"My district is more intense in terms of open spaces," said Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), who lost suburban Woodbridge and parts of Manassas to a 13th District that stretches from western Prince William County into horse country in neighboring Loudoun County. "In Prince William, people want their roads paved. A lot of people in Loudoun say they don't."

Lawmakers are finding that the big issues do not change across the region -- worsening traffic, school crowding, the fight for more money from Richmond.

But now the candidates must learn about day-to-day concerns. And they must first find their new constituents to hear them.

"I know where the Camelot Halloween Parade is, but I had to be reminded of the St. Mary's Labor Day picnic," said Del. John "Jack" H. Rust Jr. (R-Fairfax), whose swing district has about 25,000 new faces.

Incumbents and challengers both find themselves educating their constituents about redistricting, an arcane if politically potent exercise.

"A lot of people say, 'Do I still vote in the same place?' " said Del. Vivian E. Watts, a Democrat whose 39th District also has 25,000 new voters. "Nothing is neat and tidy. If people don't know who represents them, they can't focus on the campaign."

Suddenly, incumbency has taken on new meaning, as lawmakers from both parties campaign like newcomers to win over new voters.

"The incumbent is trying to portray herself as an incumbent, but she won't be an incumbent until January," said Scott P. Klein, Amundson's Republican challenger in the 44th District, using the confusion to his advantage.

Redistricting has created some wild cards, as a number of incumbents picked up opponents they otherwise might not have faced. In the new 51st District in Prince William, Republican Del. Michele B. McQuigg is now matched up against Democrat Denise Oppenhagen, who lost two years ago to Marshall in the old 13th District.

"It was good for me," Oppenhagen said of the new boundary, "because Bob [Marshall] has a constituency that will vote for him regardless. Now I have a whole different challenge."

But it is incumbent Democrats who face the most danger this Election Day, and they are fighting back hard. Watts, challenged by Republican Chris Craig, is sending out more fundraising appeals than ever, and with $65,000 raised, she is $15,000 ahead of two years ago.

Even with no opposition, Van Landingham is campaigning full throttle, walking the streets of her new 45th District, which straddles Alexandria, parts of Arlington and two magisterial districts in Fairfax County.

"It's a mess," she said. "There's no simple way I can explain it to people. People who were voting for me for 20 years won't see my name on the ballot."

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Redistricting plan receives approval: U.S. Justice Department OKs congressional map
By Tyler Whitley and Peter Hardin
October 17, 2001

The U.S. Justice Department approved yesterday the congressional redistricting plan drawn up by the General Assembly in a special session in July.

An appeal by Democrats, or other interest groups, is likely, although no decision had been made late yesterday.

The next congressional elections are scheduled in November 2002.

"We are pleased. We thought it was a good plan," said Del. H. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, the House of Delegates majority leader.

Griffith said he expected the Democrats to appeal, as they did with the plans to redistrict the House of Delegates and state Senate.

Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, who steered the plan through the Senate, said he was pleased that the department had approved the plan. But he added he was "a little bit surprised" by the decision. That's because, Stolle said, he was concerned that the department might raise questions about boundary configurations in the 3rd and 4th districts.

An appeal in the federal elections can be made to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

State Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, D-Arlington, caucus chairwoman of the Senate Democrats, said she was disappointed but not surprised at the approval by the Bush Justice Department.

Virginia and 15 other states are subject to the federal Voting Rights Act because of a history of racial discrimination, so all changes in the election maps must be reviewed by the Justice Department.

While approving the congressional district plan, the Justice Department reserved the right to re-examine the state's plan if additional information is brought to its attention.

Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-3rd, was among the vocal critics of the plan. In a letter to the Justice Department last week, Scott said the way the plan redraws the 3rd and 4th districts hurts black opportunities to elect "candidates of their choice."

Specifically, Scott contended that the plan moved too many blacks into his district, while moving approximately 36,000 blacks out of the neighboring 4th.

This appears designed to help the re-election chances of Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-4th, next year, he said. Forbes, who is white, narrowly won a special election in June against Democrat L. Louise Lucas, who is black. The margin was 52 percent to 48 percent.

Forbes, who took his oath of office June 26, said "it kind of confirms what most people around the country have been saying: This is a proper district."

Asked if it would enhance his chances to return to Congress next year, Forbes said, "it's how we represent them, not whom we represent" that is important.

Forbes replaced Norman Sisisky, a Democrat, who had represented the district for 19 years. Sisisky died in late March.

"Clearly, the minority community is worse off as a direct result of this election change," Scott said. "Therefore, I believe it's illegal under the Voting Rights Act."

He mentioned the NAACP and ACLU as possible backers of a suit and said a House Democratic group might also be interested.

"I would encourage a suit, but I don't have the resources to fund it," Scott said.

The ACLU of Virginia issued a statement expressing disappointment but stopped short of saying it would file suit. Kent Willis, executive director, said the Justice Department should have investigated legislative intent.

"I suggest that at the very least the Department of Justice seek additional information from the Commonwealth of Virginia and that the information it seeks include a careful and detailed analysis of the voting patterns in the 3rd and 4th congressional districts," Willis wrote in a Oct. 5 letter to the Justice Department.

The Virginia congressional delegation currently has seven Republicans, three Democrats and an independent who votes with the Republicans.

Both the House of Delegates and Virginia Senate redistricting plans drawn up by majority Republicans this year have been appealed by Democrats. A decision by a circuit court judge in Salem is expected any day.

 

 

Richmond Times-Dispatch
House Majority Likely for GOP; Power-sharing arrangement in effect since 1998 could end
By Tyler Whitley
October 14, 2001

 

Republicans, who for the first time had control of redistricting, appear poised to win a substantial majority in the House of Delegates races next month.

 

A Times-Dispatch analysis of the 100 House of Delegates races shows 55 likely Republican victories and 31 likely Democratic victories. Thirteen races appear to be too close to call, while newly independent Del. Watkins M. Abbitt Jr. of Appomattox appears to be a shoo-in.

 

That many GOP victories would bring an end to the power-sharing arrangement, in which the two major parties rotate committee chairmanships annually, that has governed the House since 1998. Rules adopted for the 2000-2001 sessions provided that the co-sharing arrangement would end in 2002 if one party controlled 52 seats or more.

 

In the House last session, the GOP held 52 seats, the Democrats 47.

 

The then-lone independent, Lacey E. Putney of Bedford, organized with the Republicans, giving the GOP an effective majority of 53 seats.

 

There are still more than three weeks until the election, so external events could change the electoral dynamics, political observers caution. Some Republicans fear that GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark L. Earley's disavowal of a Northern Virginia sales tax referendum could hurt GOP candidates in that region.

 

Some Republicans also fear that, if pre-election polls show a large lead for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark R. Warner, GOP voters could be discouraged from going to the polls, enabling some Democrats not now in the hunt to win.

 

But, as of now, an electoral mood that favors the experience of incumbency combined with GOP-friendly districts drawn up during the decennial redistricting session this year point to Republican victories in as many as 60 contests.

 

No central issues have emerged in these friends-and-neighbors campaigns.

 

Speaker of the House S. Vance Wilkins Jr., R-Amherst, and other Republican leaders embarked Monday on a tour through central, Southside and Southwest Virginia, to shore up the Republican base by promising more prosperity for rural areas.

 

Democrats followed the Republicans, staging a series of "reality check" news conferences in which they said the legislature's budget impasse, which killed a statewide raise for teachers, hurt rural localities especially, forcing them to dig into their own funds to reward teachers.

 

J. Scott Leake, director of the Joint Republican Caucus, said its internal polling shows the voters blame the legislature more than Gov. Jim Gilmore for the budget deadlock last winter. However, he said he didn't expect much impact, because the districts are so friendly to Republican incumbents.

 

Because 40 races have only one candidate, the Republicans are assured of 25 seats and Putney's, while the Democrats have locks on 14. Another nine seats have only one major-party candidate. Independents and third-party candidates, lacking strong organizations behind them, tend to fare poorly, although at least two, other than Abbitt, have a chance.

 

Abbitt's case is different. A legislator since the mid-1980s, he left the Democratic Party in July.

 

The two independents with fighting chances are running in the metro Richmond area.

 

The independent candidacy of Republican John A. Conrad in Richmond-Chesterfield's 68th District has created a race that observers say could be won by any three of the candidates, all with strong bases in the area.

 

In the strongly Republican district, GOP candidate Bradley P. Marrs normally would be considered the front-runner. Edward B. Barber, a veteran member of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors, is the Democratic candidate.

 

Whether Conrad, a former vice mayor of Richmond who is supported by outgoing Del. Anne G. Rhodes, a moderate Republican, takes votes from Marrs or Barber, or both, could determine the outcome.

 

The other strong independent locally is Rosalyn Dance in the 63rd District in the Tri-Cities area. Because Dance is mayor of Petersburg and was recruited to run by Wilkins, she is given a strong shot at defeating Democrat Fenton L. Bland in this black-majority district. The seat was held by Democrat Jay DeBoer for 18 years. DeBoer is retiring.

 

The district consists of Petersburg and parts of Dinwiddie County and southern Chesterfield.

 

Other close races include those in:

 

The 5th District in far Southwest Virginia - Del. John H. Tate Jr., D-Smyth, faces stiff opposition from C.W. Carrico, a Republican. The redrawing of the district is a big help to the Republicans. Tate first was elected in 1996.

 

6th District in Southwest Virginia - This district and others nearby were changed to lump several Democrats into the same district. Del. Benny Keister, a Democrat who represented the old 7th District, decided to move from his home in Dublin to Radford to run in the 6th. Keister is recovering from a stroke. The Republican candidate, Billy B. Ashworth of Wytheville, has lived in the district just two years. The district cast 60 percent of its votes for Republican Jim Gilmore in the 1997 governor's race.

 

7th District in Southwestern Virginia - Redistricting precipitated the move of Democratic Del. James M. Shuler from Blacksburg to Pulaski County and took away 60 percent of his constituency. Republican David A. Nutter of Blacksburg, well-known as a public spokesman for Virginia Tech, is Shuler's opponent.

 

31st District in Northern Virginia - This is an open seat consisting of parts of Fauquier and Prince William counties. Republican L. Scott Lingamfelter of Woodbridge and Democrat Michele D. Krause of Manassas, both retired from the military, are running. This new district went strongly for Gilmore in 1997.

 

37th District in Northern Virginia - Del. John H. Rust Jr. of Fairfax is a power among House Republicans, but he faces stiff opposition from Democrat J. Chapman Petersen, who has mounted a vigorous door-to-door campaign. Rust could be hurt by Earley's switch on the referendum issue.

 

43rd District in Northern Virginia - Republican Del. Thomas M. Bolvin of Fairfax barely won two years ago. He got some help from redistricting but also may be hurt by the referendum issue. His opponent is Mark D. Sickles, a former Fairfax Democratic chairman.

 

44th District in Northern Virginia - This is a rematch between Del. Kristen Amundson of Mount Vernon, a Democrat who barely won two years ago, and Republican Scott T. Klein of Alexandria. Republicans helped Klein with redistricting.

 

58th District near Charlottesville - This is an open seat. A spirited campaign is being waged between Republican Rob B. Bell III, an assistant Orange County prosecutor, and Democrat Charles S. Martin, a member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

 

88th District in Northern Virginia - This is an open seat in the Fauquier-Spotsylvania-Stafford area. This should be Republican territory, but William L. Jones, a former Republican who became a Democrat earlier this year, is making a hard run against Republican Mark L. Cole, a member of the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors.

 

94th District in Newport News - This is an open seat vacated by veteran Democrat Alan A. Diamonstein of Newport News. Democrat John C. Miller, a former Republican, is running against Republican G. Glenn Oder. The Republican remains a slight favorite.

 

96th District on the Peninsula - This district includes parts of Newport News and James City and York counties. Incumbent Republican Melanie Rapp barely won in a special election last year. Her Democratic opponent again is Patrick R. Pettit, a law partner of Diamonstein. A former Republican running as an independent, H.R. "Dick" Ashe, is making life difficult for Rapp. A fourth candidate, Libertarian Robert L. Stermer III, also is running.

 

Thirteen House of Delegates races are judged too close to call. (The candidates are listed below in the order they appear on the ballot.)

 

5th District C.W. Carrico, Republican Del. John H. Tate Jr., Democrat

 

6th District Billy B. Ashworth, Republican Del. Benny Keister, Democrat

 

7th District David A. Nutter, Republican Del. James M. Shuler, Democrat

 

31st District L. Scott Lingamfelter, Republican Michele D. Krause, Democrat

 

37th District Del. John H. Rust Jr., Republican J. Chapman Petersen, Democrat

 

43rd District Del. Thomas M. Bolvin, Republican Mark D. Sickles, Democrat

 

44th District Scott T. Klein, Republican Del. Kristen J. Amundson, Democrat

 

58th District Rob B. Bell III, Republican Charles S. Martin, Democrat

 

63rd District Fenton L. Bland Jr. , Democrat Rosalyn R. Dance, independent

 

68th District Bradley P. Marrs, Republican Edward B. Barber, Democrat John A. Conrad, independent

 

88th District Mark L. Cole, Republican William L. Jones, Democrat

 

94th District G. Glenn Oder, Republican John C. Miller, Democrat

 

96th District Del. Melanie Rapp, Republican Patrick R. Pettit, Democrat Robert L. Stermer III, Libertarian H.R. "Dick" Ashe, Independent

 

 

Los Angeles Times
Judge Clears Way for Va. Elections
By Chris Kahn
September 22, 2001

 

A judge ruled Saturday that upcoming state House elections will use a map drawn by the Republican-led General Assembly, but delayed a decision on whether the map represents racial gerrymandering.

 

Circuit Judge R.C. Pattisall denied a motion by Democrats seeking to have old districts used. Pattisall is still reviewing whether the new district lines are constitutional.

 

"Obviously, I've got a lot of work to do," Pattisall said. "I'm not going to make a 'shoot from the hip' or spot decision."

 

States redraw legislative and congressional district lines every 10 years based on the U.S. Census.

 

State Democrats argued during three days of contentious hearings that GOP leaders sought to weaken minority voting strength by "packing" black neighborhoods into districts already largely populated with minorities.

 

Jonathan Hacker, a lawyer representing state Democrats, said lawmakers were "jumping across rivers, raking across political subdivisions ... to find minority voters."

 

Republicans countered that while race was taken into account, other factors including geography also were considered.

 

"This is not a race case; it's a political case," said Gregory Lucyk, senior assistant attorney general. "(Democrats) are trying to impose a new regime through the courts, and that's just wrong."

 

This is the first time Republicans have been in power in the General Assembly during redistricting.

 

In 1981, the Democrats' reapportionment plan for the House of Delegates was deemed unconstitutional, but elections were allowed to be held the next November under the invalidated plan. New districts and new elections came the following year.

 

Associated Press

Virginia Democrats argue for 1991 districts

By Bruce Smith

September 11, 2001

 

Attorneys for a group of Virginia Democrats asked Circuit Court Judge Richard C. Pattisall to order that 1991 district lines be used in this fall's House of Delegates elections while their lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

 

"That's all we're asking -- one more election under the 1991 districts," attorney Jonathan D. Hacker told Judge Pattisall.

 

The Democratic lawmakers sued over a new redistricting plan drawn up by the Republican-led General Assembly. The lawsuit claims Republican leaders engaged in racial, gender and partisan gerrymandering in drawing up the new districts.

 

Mr. Hacker asked Judge Pattisall to issue an injunction blocking the use of the new districts until the lawsuit is resolved. "If the election is held November 6 under the current districts, it's going to be an unconstitutional election," he told the judge.

    

The judge did not rule.

 

Judge Pattisall has been vacationing on the resort island, and attorneys representing the plaintiffs and the Attorney General's Office flew down yesterday morning for the hearing, which took most of the day. A trial is set for Sept. 20 in Salem, where the lawsuit was filed.

 

Assistant Attorney General Greg Lucyk argued the Democrats were seeking a remedy before the trial can take place.

    

"They want sentence first, verdict later," he said. "This is 'Alice in Wonderland.'"

 

"What the plaintiffs want to do is disrupt elections for 100 House of Delegates districts because seven [districts] may be illegal," Mr. Lucyk said.

    

He said primaries have been held in several districts and, if the state were to revert to the 1991 districts, the whole process would have to start again, likely delaying the elections until at least January.

    

The court, by granting an injunction, would be overturning new districts that already have been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice under the Voting Rights Act, he said.

    

But Mr. Hacker said there was no reason that couldn't be done quickly.

    

The House has 52 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents, including one who organizes with the GOP. Since redistricting, a dozen Democrats have announced they will not seek re-election, with several citing their new, politically unfriendly districts.

During yesterday's hearing, both sides showed the judge maps of various legislative districts.

 

Mr. Hacker said majority Republicans tried to pack blacks into predominantly black districts, and claimed the new districts violated a goal of maintaining communities of interest.

    

Mr. Lucyk argued legislators tried to keep intact the districts created in 1991.

Earlier, Mr. Lucyk asked Judge Pattisall, a former Democratic county official who once campaigned for the Virginia Senate, to remove himself from the case.

    

"There is a public perception problem in this case," Mr. Lucyk said, noting people think Judge Pattisall is aligned with the Democrats.

    

The judge refused, saying his last political involvement was two decades ago.

    

"If I had any doubt that I couldn't hear this case and be fair, I would have gotten out long ago," he said. "Perception is important, but sometimes the perception is not correct."

Wall Street Journal
Virginia Redistricting Plan Tests Bush Pledge of More Diverse GOP
By Jackie Calmes and Greg Hitt
August 30, 2001

Virginia has just submitted to the federal government its proposed new map of congressional districts based on the 2000 Census. But it's more than a map: It also is a test of President Bush's promise of "a different kind of Republican Party" -- a more racially diverse one.

Mr. Bush's Justice Department has until mid-October to decide whether the Virginia map complies with the Voting Rights Act, which is designed to protect minority voters and to see that minority candidates have a chance to win elections. Democrats say the map doesn't comply; Republicans say it does.

At the root of the parties' split are their very different answers to the question of what is in minority voters' best interests. The GOP says minorities should be concentrated in select districts to ensure they are likely to be represented by a minority-group member in Congress -- an arrangement that also has bolstered Republican strength in nearby districts. Democrats argue minorities should be spread among more districts, in numbers sufficient to perhaps elect more minorities, but at least enough to force white officeholders -- Democrats, they hope -- to heed their interests.

The Bush administration hasn't tipped its hand publicly. But officials privately have indicated that the Justice Department likely will side with Virginia -- and the Republican Party -- by taking a stand that dates to Mr. Bush's father's administration.

This racial divide is the biggest issue in American politics' single biggest contest: The once-a-decade effort, required under the Constitution, to reapportion and redraw congressional districts based on a new census. The resulting maps will determine as much as any other factor which party wins control of Congress in next year's midterm elections.

Seven states aren't involved in redistricting; because of small populations, they have only a single House member elected statewide. Of the 43 states that do redistrict, not all face voting-rights issues for African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, American Indians or other minorities.

But plenty do -- enough that the outcome of House districts' racial composition is critical to determining which party will wield power. Most minorities, and especially African-Americans, tend to vote Democratic. Just a six-seat loss would cost the GOP its House majority next year.

Most of the 435 House districts aren't competitive; roughly half of these noncompetitive districts favor Democrats and half Republicans. The two parties have managed to draw the districts that way. So in the few dozen "swing" districts that tip the balance of power, the share of Democratic minority voters can be pivotal.

Sixteen states, including Virginia, are covered all or in part by the voting-rights law's requirement to get federal clearance for any changes that affect voting, including redistricting. Earlier this month Virginia was the first of those to submit its map to the Justice Department.

After the 1990 census, the first Bush administration demanded so-called majority-minority districts to group minority voters together and seek to ensure the election of minority candidates. Since then, the issue has been muddied by a string of Supreme Court rulings that race can't be the predominant factor in a district's political boundaries. Nonetheless, in the current remapping, the GOP argues that existing districts favoring minorities can't be redrawn in a way that reduces the percentage of minority voters.

As Republicans note, the post-1990 minority districts have helped boost the number of blacks in Congress to 37 from 17 and Hispanics to 19 from five. But Republicans gained in this process, too, because drawing the heavily minority districts typically left surrounding areas that were mostly white -- and Republican. With the maps' help, Republicans took over the House for the first time in 40 years.

Democrats insist they want to protect minority incumbents' districts. But rather than "ghettoize" minority voters, the Democrats want to spread some into adjoining districts. They cite recent elections showing black candidates don't need a majority-black district to win. And, they insist, even conservative white Democrats represent minorities' interests better than Republicans do.

Minority Democrats now tend to agree, which is a switch from a decade ago. Back then -- offering stark evidence of how redistricting's high stakes can turn enemies into friends -- black Democrats in a number of states made a mutually beneficial alliance with Republicans.

This year, Republicans have sought to rekindle the alliance "in every state where there are significant minority populations," says Don McGahn, general counsel at the House GOP's campaign committee.

Mr. McGahn acknowledges that some black and Hispanic incumbents have won re-election after Supreme Court rulings resulted in new districts with fewer minority voters, but he argues this was due in large measure to the fund-raising and media advantages they had as incumbents. "What happens when they retire?" he asks.

More broadly, a decade ago, the GOP's redistricting strategy was designed to add seats in the South, where minority concentrations helped the GOP weaken some vulnerable white Democratic incumbents and then capture their seats.

But the GOP has had far less luck this time getting blacks to align with it -- a fact that actually cheers some Republican conservatives, including some blacks, who say it shows the need for a new approach. These conservatives contend that while packing minorities into districts helps Republicans in the short term, it is harmful in the long run -- and contrary to Mr. Bush's campaign rhetoric promising a different, more diverse GOP.

"I think the time has come for the Republican Party to reject racial gerrymandering and learn how to attract black votes," says Roger Clegg, general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative group that opposes race-based policies.

These Republicans complain that many GOP members of Congress don't even try to represent minority interests because they don't have to. And minority voters never "get practice," as Mr. Clegg puts it, in voting for Republicans. One of the GOP's top black elected officials, Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, argues that "the Republican Party will never, ever become a competitive party within the African-American community if Republicans never even have an opportunity to represent African-Americans."

But now Virginia Gov. James Gilmore -- Mr. Bush's pick to be chairman of the Republican National Committee -- has signed into law the Virginia plan, which seems to move in the opposite direction. The map, says Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat who is Virginia's only black member of Congress, "is a classic case of redistricting so Republicans can dilute the minority vote."

In Mr. Scott's southeast Virginia district, blacks make up about 57% of the voters. He was willing to represent fewer blacks in order to boost their voting population in an adjoining district to more than 40%. But the GOP plan that passed gives Mr. Scott more black voters and reduces them in the neighboring district to 34% from 39%. That would help white GOP Rep. Randy Forbes, who this summer narrowly won a special election against black Democrat Louise Lucas. She was among the blacks shifted into Mr. Scott's district.

Gilmore press secretary Lila White says the governor didn't take a position on the Virginia Legislature's map before he signed it. "The governor deferred to the General Assembly and simply forwarded that plan to the Justice Department," she says. Mr. Scott predicts a lawsuit against the plan, if it clears. Separately, so do the conservative groups.

Edward Blum, legal-affairs director at the conservative American Civil Rights Institute, has joined Mr. Clegg in writing to Democrat and GOP leaders nationwide to reject race-based redistricting. "I'd hoped it would strike a chord somewhere," he says. "But from what I've heard from the RNC, there's no change."

Richmond Times-Dispatch
Remap Plan Retains Black District
By Will Jones
August 18, 2001

Powhatan County supervisors will consider a redistricting plan that would preserve the only majority-minority district, but that majority might not mean much on Election Day.

District 5, which covers much of the area north of U.S. 60 and west of U.S. 522, would have slightly more black residents than white residents, under a plan scheduled for a public hearing Sept. 10.

However, many of those residents would be ineligible to vote because they're inmates at several correctional facilities.

At the time of last year's census, the facilities had 2,263 inmates and 63 percent were black. Including the inmates, the proposed District 5 would be about 50 percent black and 48 percent white.

District 5 Supervisor Margaret Harris Manning said she's satisfied with the redistricting plan, even though her black constituents would not represent a majority in terms of potential voting strength. Blacks in the district had that advantage following the 1990 census and subsequent redistricting, Planning Director Paul Grasewicz said.

Manning was first elected in 1992 and became Powhatan's first and only black supervisor.

"I think we've done the best we can," she said of redistricting. "The minority population hasn't grown that much in the past 10 years."

Across Powhatan, the percentage of whites increased from 78 percent in 1990 to 81 percent last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At the same time, the percentage of blacks fell from 21 percent to 17 percent.

Overall, Powhatan's population jumped 46 percent, from 15,328 to 22,377. That growth rate was higher than in any other Richmond area locality.

Now, the Board of Supervisors must redraw the county's political districts to give each approximately 4,475 residents. Officials want input from the public on a plan, called Scenario 4a.

Officials have declined to rush to a vote on redistricting because of concerns about District 5 by Manning and representatives of the Powhatan branch of the NAACP.

Ten years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice rejected Powhatan's first redistricting plan because it did not include a black-majority district. The county eventually approved another plan, which was accepted by the department. The delay caused the elections for county supervisors to be postponed more than a year.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Roy J. Harrison said he does not expect similar trouble this year. Officials are determined to approve a redistricting plan that satisfies the law and disrupts residents minimally.

"Because of the population changes over the past 10 years, to get true voting minority-majority district is impossible," he said.

Manning said this week that she hadn't discussed redistricting recently with representatives of the Powhatan NAACP. Karl Lipscomb, president of the county branch, was unavailable.

Officials from Powhatan and the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission drafted initially three plans and then two more to try to address concerns about District 5. Under the Scenario 4a, District 5 loses no residents and gains inmates at Powhatan Correctional Center, which is currently part of District 3.

"She is absolutely not losing one single voter," Powhatan Registrar Inez Poe said of Manning.

Manning said she's happy with Scenario 4a because District 5 would keep areas along Ceasartown Road and Ridge Road, which had been part of another district in at least one other plan.

"My district has grown," she said, "and the plan that we selected to go to the public is basically just about what I had."

Washington Post
Election Redistricting Proposals 
July 22, 2001 

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has sent nine proposed local redistricting plans to be considered at a public hearing Sept. 4. 

The proposals involve election district boundaries for the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. They may be seen on county government Web site, www.co.loudoun.va.us. 

Five of the alternatives were prepared by Loudoun County staff, one by Supervisor Jim Burton (I-Mercer), one by Supervisor Mark R. Herring (D-Leesburg), one by Supervisor Sally Kurtz (D-Catoctin) and one by the Loudoun County Republican Party. 

Under the board's guidelines for redistricting, all districts must have equal representation, incorporated areas should not be split, voter convenience should be taken into account and the 2000 U.S. Census must be the source of population data. 

The supervisors are expected to adopt a plan at their Sept. 17 meeting and adopt precincts and polling places Nov. 19. 

Associated Press
Judge asks U.Va. law professor for help with redistricting lawsuit
By Chris Kahn
July 20, 2001

A judge is seeking the counsel of a University of Virginia law professor to help with the Democrats' redistricting lawsuit against Gov. Jim Gilmore and other top state Republicans.

Circuit Judge R.C. Patisall said Friday that A.E. Dick Howard would not conduct any independent investigation.

Instead, Howard will assist Patisall with sticky legal issues including whether or not lawmakers can be required to give depositions and if Salem is the proper venue for a state redistricting lawsuit.

Patisall will likely consider such issues at an Aug. 3 hearing.

Democrats, out of power for the first time during a redistricting year, claim that GOP officials engaged in racial, gender and partisan gerrymandering when redrawing legislative district lines last spring.

Howard, who led the 1971 revision of the state Constitution, told The Associated Press in June that those claims were unlikely to get anywhere in court.

``I don't see any appetite on the part of the courts for intervening where district lines are drawn for political considerations,'' Howard said. ``They may be manifestly unfair, even egregious, but bad taste is not necessarily the same thing as being unconstitutional.''

Lawyers for both Republicans and Democrats said they were unsure if they will object to Howard's presence in the lawsuit.

Patisall also ordered that the state deliver thousands of pages of transcripts from redistricting hearings and other pertinent documents to Democrats. The documents already are publicly available, but Democrats complained that they would have been too numerous to request one by one.

Washington Post
When They Draw Lines
Editorial
July 13, 2001

In Richmond and Annapolis, the great political carve-outs are underway: Redistricting -- the winner-take-nearly-all remappings of state and congressional districts -- will have dramatic effects in both states. In Virginia, where Republicans only recently cemented their control of state government, the routing of longtime Democratic powerhouses is stunning. Democratic state legislators with a combined 182 years of experience have been pushed into retirement. Chief among them are Minority Leader C. Richard "Dickie" Cranwell, whose cunning legislative maneuvering and biting down-home oratory kept the shrinking Democratic presence in play; his top deputy, Del. Thomas M. Jackson Jr.; and former House speaker Thomas W. Moss Jr., whose quick wit, fiery speeches and 35 years' knowledge of the bodies politic stoked Democratic dominance in its heyday. In Northern Virginia, Democratic senators Leslie Byrne of Falls Church and Mary Margaret Whipple of Arlington find themselves in the same district. Majority-black districts have become more so, prompting Democratic accusationsof "packing," or concentrating black voting strength in a few districts to help Republicans in next-door districts.

For Congress, the remapping of Northern Virginia was effectively a done deal before it showed up in Richmond. Back in February, Northern Virginia's three representatives huddled informally to sketch their best lines for self-preservation.

In Maryland, where Democrats have long ruled, the process will be just as partisan. One Democratic goal is to make reelection as difficult as possible for Republican Rep. Connie Morella. Power brokers in Annapolis are talking about carving up her Montgomery County district, not only to hurt Rep. Morella but also as part of an intramural game -- the jockeying of various Democrats who want to run in what is now Mrs. Morella's district.

The common thread here is that voters' interests tend to come last. No one is shocked to see politics and partisanship enter the redistricting process. But there are a few states that employ nonpartisan commissions to do at least some of the work. As voters in Maryland and Virginia watch their reigning majorities stick it to the other side, they might want to think about alternative ways of doing the people's business. 

Washington Post
Democrats Pin Election Hopes on Legal Action: State Court Suit Challenges Redistricting by Republicans
By Craig Timberg
July 12, 2001

The Republican-written redistricting plan has prompted a wave of retirements by veteran Democratic lawmakers, who are turning to Virginia courts in a last-ditch effort to save their party from dramatic losses in elections this fall.

Party leaders say they have committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the legal challenge, filed last month in a state Circuit Court in Salem. It seeks an injunction against the redistricting plan, charging that it discriminates against women, African Americans and Democrats.

More than half the money is coming from the 65 Democrats in the General Assembly, with the rest supplied by the Democratic National Committee.

At stake is nothing less than the party's future in Virginia, Democrats and Republicans say. A decade of losses has turned Democratic majorities in the House and Senate to minorities. Democrats hold 18 of 40 Senate seats and 47 of 100 House seats.

Nine House Democrats, including top party leaders, have announced their retirements. The list includes Minority Leader C. Richard Cranwell (Roanoke), Deputy Minority Leader Thomas M. Jackson Jr. (Carroll), former speaker Thomas W. Moss Jr. (Norfolk) and former party chairman Alan A. Diamonstein (Newport News).

Democrats hope that a reversal in court would persuade at least some of the retirees to reconsider, said Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller (D-Fairfax). "Everybody hopes it will be successful."

Party leaders are also recruiting new candidates, but incumbents have natural advantages in reputation and raising money that can be tough for a challenger to overcome. That's why the odds are stacked against the Democrats if the redistricting plan survives the legal challenge.

Democrats have decided against filing a lawsuit in federal court, reasoning that state court is their best chance to win.

The Democrats' legal arguments are based on Virginia law and the state Constitution, which requires that legislative districts be compact and contiguous. The lawsuit also contends that districts drawn by Republicans unfairly punish voters who don't agree with Republican views.

"Although the Republicans may be the winners, the voters of Virginia are the losers," said Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington), a Senate leader whose district was redrawn to include the residence of another Democratic incumbent, Sen. Leslie L. Byrne.

"It's clear that the districts were drawn to include or exclude certain groups of people," Whipple said.

In particular, Democrats say the plan packs African American voters into 12 majority-black districts, diminishing their influence elsewhere. The lawsuit also contends that incumbent women in the General Assembly were treated more harshly than incumbent men.

Republicans dismiss such arguments, noting that the Justice Department has approved the House redistricting plan even though Democrats made similar complaints in filings against it.

Republicans also said the number of African American districts remains unchanged from 1991, when Democrats controlled the legislature and drew the boundary lines.

Ed Matricardi, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, said the odds of Democrats winning in court were "between zero and none," noting that his party spent $300,000 fighting the Democrats' redistricting plan in court in 1991 -- to no avail.

"Every dollar that is spent on a lawsuit is one less dollar that can be spent on a challenger or an open seat," Matricardi said.

The wave of retirements caused by redistricting is likely to result in a sharp drop in the number of Democrats in the House of Delegates. Some Democrats in the state Senate have also seen their districts become more difficult to defend.

Puller's new district, for example, stretches south into Prince William County, taking in 101,000 new residents, so 61 percent of voters in the district will be represented by her for the first time.

"These plans are gerrymandering plain and simple," said Del. R. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath), head of the House Democratic Caucus. "They took our state Constitution and shoved it aside."

Washington Post
Blacks Question Va. Redistricting Plan
By Craig Timberg
July 10, 2001

African American lawmakers and the ACLU warned today that Republican plans for redrawing Virginia's congressional districts may violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by lessening the influence of black voters.

The assertion unsettled the Republicans, who rule both houses of the General Assembly, threatening to throw a wrench into what party leaders hoped would be a smooth two-day special session to adopt new congressional boundary lines.

Complaints focused on the 4th Congressional District, which was won in a racially divided special election last month by J. Randy Forbes, a white Republican, over a black candidate. Virginia is among the first states to begin the once-a-decade redistricting process, in which boundary lines are adjusted to account for population growth.

Under the original Republican plan submitted by Del. Jeannemarie Devolites (R-Fairfax), the 4th District, stretching from the Richmond suburbs to Hampton Roads, would have gone from 39 percent black to 32 percent, making it potentially easier for Forbes -- or any other Republican -- to win. African Americans are among the most reliable supporters of Democrats.

Devolites, who defended her plan as legal today, raised the African American population to 34 percent in a revision, but black leaders said the updated plan still dilutes the voting power of African Americans.

"My assessment is that's illegal," said Rep. Robert C. Scott (D), Virginia's only African American in Congress, who represents the neighboring 3rd District. "What happens to the ability of minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice?"

State Sen. Yvonne B. Miller (D-Norfolk) said of the Devolites plan, "It's also making Virginia look like a state that's going through a second Reconstruction period, when we're rolling back the rights of African Americans."

Virginia is one of several southern states with a history of segregation that are monitored closely by the U.S. Justice Department under the Voting Rights Act. That com2plicates the redrawing of legislative boundaries -- a process generally used to make incumbents of ruling parties more secure in their seats.

The American Civil Liberties Union also plans to oppose the Devolites plan in a complaint to the Justice Department unless there are changes to the 4th District, said Kent Willis, director of the ACLU's Virginia chapter.

"In that district, the influence of African American voters has been significantly diminished," Willis said.

Some black lawmakers also complained this spring about the redistricting plans for the General Assembly, but they say the congressional redistricting plans are worse.

Devolites said today that her plan follows legal guidelines carefully by not diluting African American voting strength in Scott's district, which is majority-black. She said there is no legal precedent against lowering the number of African American voters in a district, such as the 4th, that does not have a black majority.

"I feel very strongly that my bill is in compliance with the Voting Rights Act," she said.

But other Republicans expressed dismay that a series of court cases has muddied the issue of what constitutes legal minority representation in redistricting plans, particularly in districts where fewer than half the voters are minorities.

"I don't have any idea what the law is, and I don't think anybody else does either," said House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (R-Amherst). "It's a terrible situation."

Other Republicans dismissed the issue as a ploy by Democrats. "It's all about politics. It's not about race," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), who helped draft the plan.

The issue touched off an angry confrontation in the House Privileges and Elections Committee today as one speaker called the Devolites plan "racially segregated" and suggested that it could spur racial unrest.

The black lawmakers avoided such charged language but made clear their frustration about the 4th Congressional District losing black voters so soon after a black candidate, state Sen. L. Louise Lucas, narrowly lost it to Forbes.

"In redistricting, you find people who will always argue for what's in their best interest," Forbes said today. "Striking the right balance is something that never pleases everyone."

Miller and other black leaders say that Virginia, with an African American population of 20 percent, should have two black congressional districts out of the 11 allotted to it. As an alternative, they favor creating a second congressional district that is heavily influenced by African American voters.

They also argue that Virginia's lone majority-minority congressional district, represented by Scott, should have a lower percentage of African American voters so that black influence is spread into other districts. Devolites' plan would keep his district, which also runs from Richmond to Hampton Roads, with 57 percent black voters.

The criticisms by black lawmakers -- particularly Scott -- increase the likelihood of action by the Justice Department, said Mark E. Rush, a politics professor at Washington and Lee University who studies redistricting.

"If you have him saying you are hurting black constituents . . . you're calling for a Department of Justice inquiry," Rush said.

Washington Post
Va. Draws House Districts to Aid GOP
R.H. Melton
July 10, 2001

Republicans continued their historic march across Virginia's political landscape today by redrawing the state's 11 congressional districts to protect the GOP-dominated delegation, despite a certain legal challenge by Democrats who said the new map illegally dilutes black voting strength in parts of Hampton Roads.

As if to confirm the political mastery of General Assembly Republicans who pushed through the redistricting plan on largely party-line votes, nearly a dozen Democratic lawmakers bade farewell to old comrades and combatants through the day, retiring rather than run again this fall in legislative districts that had been redrawn in April by the same GOP majority.

"Goodbye, Dickie. And then there were none, eh?" said Sen. Warren E. Barry (R-Fairfax) as he shook hands with retiring House minority leader C. Richard Cranwell (D-Roanoke); both had entered the legislature in the early 1970s.

Barry and other GOP veterans may have been gracious in private, but on the floor of the House of Delegates and Senate, they put on yet another assured display of partisan power as they approved new boundaries for a Virginia congressional team that has turned decidedly more Republican in recent years. The delegation to Capitol Hill includes seven Republicans, an independent and three Democrats.

In Northern Virginia, three longtime members Reps. James P. Moran Jr. (D-8th), Frank R. Wolf (R-10th) and Thomas M. Davis III (R-11th) will have nearly ideal districts if they run again in 2002. Under today's plan, the region picks up a fourth representative, incumbent Jo Ann S. Davis (R), whose 1st District will now stretch from her base in Yorktown to the mostly Democratic southern tier of Prince William County, home to more than 38,000 people who had been in Thomas Davis's district.

Moran was perhaps the only happy Democrat in Virginia today after redistricting handed him friendly precincts in Reston that Davis cheerfully relinquished as his legislative allies in Richmond crafted an even safer district for him.

"Serving Reston will be well worth the drive up I-66," said Moran, who currently represents Alexandria, Arlington, Falls Church and portions of Fairfax County and will have to introduce himself to 125,000 new constituents in the coming year. "It's almost like turning a new page in your career."

Unlike the gentleman's agreement that Moran, Wolf and Davis struck last winter to protect their seats "The fact is, I get along very well with Frank and Tom," Moran said there was no bipartisan accord today in the General Assembly, where Republicans turned back repeated attempts by Democrats to enhance the voting strength of African Americans in the racially mixed 4th District of southeastern Virginia.

J. Randy Forbes, a white Republican state senator, captured the 4th District seat in a special election last month by defeating L. Louise Lucas, a black Democratic state senator, in voting that broke sharply along racial lines. Before today's assembly action, Democratic legislators and civil rights groups had demanded that GOP leaders include enough black residents in the newly drawn 4th District to give another African American a realistic shot at capturing that longtime Democratic seat.

But Republicans did not relent, instead relocating all of Lucas's home town of Portsmouth into the adjacent 3rd District of Rep. Robert C. Scott (D), the state's only black member of Congress.

GOP leaders said the Portsmouth shift and other boundary changes that reduced the 4th District's minority population from 39 percent to 34 percent would satisfy requirements of the Voting Rights Act and a Justice Department review.

"Is the Republican Party so frightened of a single African American woman that they are willing to remove her completely out of the running for a seat in the 4th District?" said Sen. Yvonne B. Miller (D-Norfolk).

Replied Sen. Kenneth W. Stolle (R-Virginia Beach), the Senate's redistricting leader: "I don't have the slightest idea what she is talking about." He added that the Lucas defeat was irrelevant to new district boundaries, which he said did no harm to the interests of African American voters.

Democrats vowed to challenge the redistricting plan, which they contended will diminish black voting strength in the 4th District by crowding African Americans into the neighboring 3rd District, where Scott was already widely considered to have a safe seat.

"My God, this is all very surprising. They used a scalpel in the spring to redo House and Senate seats, and they took a machete to this doggone congressional redistricting," said Del. Kenneth R. Melvin (D-Portsmouth), a black legislative leader. "There's packing in the 3rd and dilution in the 4th."

House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr. (R-Amherst) said he had a few nagging concerns about today's result, partly because states receive so little guidance from the federal government and courts. "There's no clear authority in the court rulings about what we should do," Wilkins said.

Privately, some Democrats expressed fears that the Justice Department under President Bush will readily approve the congressional redistricting, much as it did the General Assembly's latest maps for its own legislative districts. The April redistricting sparked a lawsuit that also alleged racial and other inequities.

Justice approved the plan for House of Delegates districts a month ago and announced today that it had approved the new state Senate districts. Elections for the Virginia House are Nov. 6; state Senate elections are in 2003.

The Justice decision was announced in Richmond by Randolph A. Beales, who had just been elected by the General Assembly to fill the unexpired term of attorney general Mark L. Earley (R), who resigned recently to campaign full-time for governor.


Richmond Times-Dispatch
Redistrict plan held racially divisive: General Assembly panel holds public hearings
By Tyler Whitley
July 1, 2001

A congressional redistricting plan sanctioned by Virginia's seven Republican congressmen is racially divisive, a General Assembly panel was told yesterday.

Charles Winder, a Hampton attorney and NAACP official, said the plan divided Portsmouth along racial lines and would increase racial tensions in that city.

Winder was one of a handful of people who showed up at a public hearing at the General Assembly Building to comment on four congressional redistricting plans that have been introduced.

A joint subcommittee of the House and Senate elections committees conducted the hearing, one of four held around the state yesterday and Friday.

Winder said the plan appears to pack blacks into the 3rd District, represented by Democratic Rep. Robert C. Scott, while lowering the black population in the 4th District.

"We [blacks] can compete at 50 percent, we don't need 57 percent," Winder said. Scott is black.

Del. Johnny S. Joannou, D-Portsmouth, said the plan might be unconstitutional. He noted that the congressional district plan drawn up 10 years ago was thrown out by a court ruling that declared it racially gerrymandered.

The plan introduced by Del. Jeannemarie A. Devolites, R-Fairfax, drew the most fire. She drew up the plan with the cooperation of the seven GOP incumbents and a Republican-leaning independent.

Del. John S. Reid, R-Henrico, said a number of people attending a public hearing in Williamsburg Friday night objected to the plan's proposal to split Chesapeake among the 4th, 3rd and 2nd congressional districts.

Chesapeake currently is in the 4th District, which elected a new congressman, Republican J. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake, in a special election June 19.

While the plan is designed to help Forbes and redistrict 2nd District Rep. Ed Schrock, a Republican from Virginia Beach, win re-election next year by putting more white, Republican-leaning voters in those two districts, Reid said Chesapeake residents did not want to be split.

Del. Lacey E. Putney, I-Bedford, co-chair of the House Elections Committee, said no one attending a public hearing in Roanoke liked the Devolites plan.

Botetourt County residents wanted to be kept in the 6th District, and Blacksburg area residents wanted to be kept in the 9th district, he said. The proposed plan would move Botetourt from the 6th to the 9th and the Blacksburg area, including Virginia Tech, from the 9th to the 6th.

The Devolites plan is considered the main vehicle that the General Assembly will consider when it convenes July 9 to draw new lines for the state's 11 congressional districts. Redistricting is done every 10 years following the U.S. Census.

State Sen. Stephen H. Martin, R-Chesterfield, cautioned that none of the four bills should be considered pre-eminent.

"I have a feeling we will make changes" to any bill, Martin said.

Chesterfield Supervisor Kelly E. Miller said the county would prefer a plan authored by state Sen. John C. Watkins, R-Chesterfield, which puts all of Chesterfield into the 7th District. The county is now split between the 7th and 4th districts.

Miller and Chesterfield Registrar Lawrence Haake also objected because the proposed Devolites plan would split five precincts. That would cause confusion and added costs on election day, they said.

The plan was drawn up before Chesterfield changed its magisterial district and precinct lines, so the problem can be corrected, Martin said.

Ray Wooten, a member of the Cumberland County Board of Supervisors, urged the committee to keep Cumberland in the 5th District with its rural neighbors. The Devolites bill would put Cumberland in the 4th District, as would the Watkins plan.

In addition to the Devolites and Watkins plans, bills have been introduced by state Sen. Yvonne B. Miller, D-Norfolk, and Del. R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, who is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Because the Deeds and Miller bills would enhance the election chances of Democrats, they are considered unlikely to get far. With majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate, Republicans are in charge of the redistricting process.

Virginia currently has seven Republican members of the House, one independent and three Democrats. Washington Post


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