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Va. GOP Redistricting Effort Nixed

by ARLnow.com February 7, 2013 at 5:05 pm 41 Comments

A redistricting effort by Republicans in the Virginia Senate, which would have resulted in Arlington losing much of its legislative clout in that body, has been defeated.

The state Senate passed the surprise redistricting plan on Jan. 21 by a party-line vote of 20-19, thanks to the absence of Democratic Senator Henry Marsh, a civil rights lawyer who was attending President Obama’s inauguration that day. The unexpected vote drew strong criticism from Democrats and Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling.

The redistricting plan would have benefited Republicans, turning several Democratic-held districts heavily Republican. It would also have reduced Arlington’s legislative influence, moving veteran state Senator Janet Howell’s district back out of Arlington (she represents part of north Arlington as a result of the 2011 redistricting) and reducing state Sen. Adam Ebbin’s portion of Arlington to a small sliver of south Arlington.

Arlington’s interests would have been represented in the state Senate primarily by Sen. Barbara Favola, the former Arlington County Board member who was elected to the state legislature in 2011.

The redistricting plan, which was tacked on to a bill that was supposed to make small technical changes to House of Delegates districts, was ruled not germane by Republican House Speaker Bill Howell on Wednesday, defeating it.

  • MC

    I guess it is gratifying at two Virginia republicans have some ethics. This sort of banana republicanism is destroying the competitive stature of our state.

    • CourthouseChris

      This is the second bit of reasonableness I’ve heard about Lt. Gov Bill Bolling. Kudos to him for refraining from lowering the bar in pursuit of cheap political victories, as so many are quick to do.

      • DCBuff

        Will be interesting to see if the Lt. Gov. runs as an independent.

      • brown before green

        The Lt. Gov. spoke up, but it was Speaker Howell who showed guts through action, tabling it.

        • drax

          Still, props to Bolling for refusing to go along even before they voted – that’s why they had to wait until a Democrat was out of town in the first place.

    • novasteve

      But it was okay for MD dems to redistrict federal districts to make sure Roscoe Bartlett lost. No outrage there.

      • Francisco Franco

        We don’t live in MD, Einstein.

      • confused

        The MD dems certainly gerrymandered after the 2010 census. In several states GOP did so.

        What sets Va apart, is that we already HAD our post census redistricting, and they want to do it again, not because of a new census, but just because they can.

      • Ivy

        Oh please! The Republicans have been pulling this crap all over the country. They are desperate and they are going to continue to lose until they stop their Nazi/fascist talk.

      • Jake

        I am outraged that MD did that, but it is true… I don’t live in Maryland so I wasn’t as concerned about it as what almost just happened here.

  • KathyInArlington


  • JimPB

    Subversion of democracy stopped in its tracks, for now. Hurrah.

    What we need is nonpartisan districting without consideration of the effect on either party or race on election results.

    And, California has a novel provision with merit for properly drawn (see above) districts that are nonetheless effectively one-party districts. California’s provision puts the two primary candidates, irrespective of whether they are of the same or different parties, on the November ballot. This moves the effective selection of the November winner from the primary, when voters on the extreme left or right, can have a strong effect, to the general election. As a result, the November election candidates have to compete to represent a more representative number of at least 50% + 1 of all voters.

    • drax

      What we REALLY need is to get rid of districts altogether and have a proportional representation system instead.

  • Mary-Austin

    I’m not saying I agree with the GOP power grab…but it is worth noting our senate district would be significantly LESS gerrymandered under that map.

    • CourthouseChris

      Though this question may sound like a provocation, that’s not its intent: I’m curious as to how you judge degree of gerrymandering?

      • You serious, Clark

        I understand your point but does someone living way out in east-Sterling have the same representative needs from their elected official as someone living in the Rosslyn-Ballston area. do you think someone in Sterling has the same ideas on traffic as someone in Arlington.

        Let’s not get into the fact, Favola’s actually campaigning wouldn’t really change at all since she’s not going out to Sterling to see what there issues are because it wouldn’t make a cost benefit analysis.

        BTW, the “new” gerrymandered senate districts, if they had gone thrown would have bolstered the prospects of several minority groups

      • Mary-Austin

        The new map would have been only Arlington precincts.
        The current map splits the district over 3 counties reaching out to “Countryside” in Loudoun.
        The proposed district was similar to what we had before until Democrats came up with their gerrymander in 2011.

        • Max

          Well, that’s how gerrymandering works. You put as many of the people you don’t like into one district. You group the rest of those people with large groups of people who vote for you.

          That being said, I don’t find this an atrocious example of gerrymandering, as all those people would have likely been reelected assuming they didn’t have to run primaries against each other (I think they might have had to, which is part of the reason this was viewed as a trick). I think the better examples were down around Richmond and Petersburg.

          • Mary-Austin

            I don’t think you get it.
            Republicans didn’t need to gerrymander to have their desired map. Democrats did.
            Most Democrats already live in a few districts. Democrats had to gerrymander to get their desired result by spreading voters from Arlington and Alexandria into districts they wouldn’t normally be in.
            The Republicans are right (like it or not) fewer localities are split up under their map and the current map is more of a gerrymander.

          • Max

            Okay Mary, let’s be honest. Both parties gerrymander and are horrible for it. The new districts would have added 5 more strongly Republican districts by packing Democrats into 3 districts. The overall result is less competitive senate districts, overall benefitting the Republican party. Look at district 4 – it takes the liberal votes in Charlottesville and places them in a pool of voters that goes to West Virginia. In southern Virginia all the democratic districts are made to fence off the major democratic urban centers. I’m not saying that some of these districts are good for Democrats, but they’re purposefully doing that to spread Republican vote to more districts when they now make up a minority of the Virginia vote. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/republican-redraw/2013/01/22/722c80be-64f2-11e2-85f5-a8a9228e55e7_graphic.html

            If Republicans didn’t need to gerrymander, then why did Nancy Pelocy’s Democratic party receive 1000000 more votes in the congressional elections than the Republicans? Did you notice that Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia all went for Obama but only a third of their representatives are Democrats?

          • Wayne Kubicki

            Max – an individual state’s congressional delegation split should not be equated to that state’s Prez election results. The states you referenced all have very heavy Dem concentrations in limited geographic areas, with the GOP usually having margins (smaller % ones) in most of the rest of the state.

          • drax

            “Republicans didn’t need to gerrymander to have their desired map. Democrats did.”

            Oh, come on. There were tortured districts on both maps.

    • AL

      Wow, Mary-Austin. You are totally right! I was reading the map BACKWARDS. The red is what it is now; blue is what it could’ve been.

      • Deadite

        The wording on the captions is very confusing. It would make more sense for them to instead say something like “proposed changes (blue) to _____’s district (red)”. The way it reads now is unclear whether the “blue” refers to “changes” or “district”.

  • Buckingham Bandit

    Novasteve will not be happy about this, needless to say.

    • drax

      Because he was OUTRAGED.

  • Nancy

    The district was gerrymandered by Republicans to defeat a Democratic candidate by extending the border into Loudoun. It was a Republican gerrymander. However, Barbara Favola won anyway. So, now the Republicans need another way to rig the vote.

    • Mary-Austin

      Couldn’t be more wrong. The districts in Northern Virginia were drawn by Democrats.
      They gerrymandered them by unpacking Democratic voters in Arlington and Alexandria and putting them into districts with voters in Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun.
      Instead of a few solid Democratic seats close in there were more leaning Dem seats all around.
      Barbara Favola’s seat was never seriously in question.

      • ArlDem

        Mary-Austin is correct. Senate Dems drew these districts and cut a deal with Republicans that gave them a free hand to draw House districts. That bargain, which the GOP has now tried to renege, gave the GOP control of the House for a generation. I personally hate the gerrymandered Favola district and prefer a more contiguous map, even if it might reduce electoral chances somewhat. But the Democrats made there bed with this one. And the GOP has shown their true colors by failing to keep a deal for even a year.

  • drax

    Gerrymandering happens. The bigger issue is how the Republicans tried to sneak this through while a Democatic senator was away.

    And to add insult to injury, it was a black senator who was a civil rights leader attending the inauguration of Obama on MLK Day while the Republicans used creating one black majority district as the reason for grabbing four or five seats of their own.

    • Deadite

      But but but I thought the GOP was re-branding itself as a party that is friendly toward minorities. Now are you telling me that’s not true?

      • drax

        I would never disparage the Republican Party.

  • JohnRambo

    A GOP House Speaker ruled it was not Germane so I guess not all Republicans are bad people as is implied by most of the posts here.

    • drax

      Hey, JohnRambo, just as nobody is dumb enough to believe the Republicans did this to create a new black district, we’re not dumb enough to believe they killed because they had a change of heart and realized it was not nice. They did it because nobody fell for their scumbaggery and it blew up in their face, so they cut bait.

  • LV_Jack

    Mary-Austin is spot on.

    • Mike

      I agree with Mary-Austin too.
      The way the Republicans tried to slip this through was sneaky and disingenuous, but the districts they came up with in NOVA actually make a lot more sense than what was there before. If you asked some hypothetical neutral person — someone who knows NOVA well but knows nothing about NOVA politics and who has no preference for Democrats or Republicans — to come up with districts that grouped voters with similar circumstances into compact districts that reflect geographical realities and city/county borders, it would look a lot more like the proposed blue map than the existing red map. When you see a district that looks sort of like a snake creeping across a map, that is a sign that Mr. Gerry Mander has been up to no good.

      • drax

        Possibly, but the point wasn’t to make more sense – it was to let Favola have her seat and pack more Democrats into it so that Republican voters could help out in surrounding districts while the Democrats’ votes would be wasted in a safe Dem district.

        • Mary-Austin

          But it still makes more sense to have a district that is made up of only Arlington precincts than one that is made up of Arlington, McLean, Great Falls, and Countryside precincts.

          • Max

            Look at Richmond. It has a smaller population than Arlington and it gets four districts to prevent its residents from having too much sway.

  • confused

    if the commonwealth really wanted ‘democracy” they would shift legislative elections to an even numbered year, not the off off year when turn out, esp among young and minorities is lower. If they did that the legislature would be much more Dem. So this crying over Dem gerrymandering doesnt impress me much.

  • ARL’ian

    But, but, how will steve-o ever win his write-in campaign now? He is doing such a good job of campaigning on ARLnow comment sections and the forum. He also has great ideas like getting rid of all individuals not of Anglo-Saxon heritage, outlawing bicycles and requiring every room in the County to offer smoking, including every elementary school classroom. Who can argue against a platform like that?


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