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Redistricting Effort Targets Virginia Democrats In Swing Districts

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The deadlocked Virginia state Senate voted 20-19 to redraw Senate districts with Sen. Henry Marsh absent, attenting the inauguration.
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The deadlocked Virginia state Senate voted 20-19 to redraw Senate districts with Sen. Henry Marsh absent, attenting the inauguration.

Members of the Virginia General Assembly are considering a controversial proposal to re-draw the state Senate districts. With no public notice and no opportunity for bipartisan debate, Senate Republicans approved a bill Monday that draws new district boundaries for the state senate.

Sen. George Barker of Fairfax County currently represents parts of Prince William County and Alexandria city. He would lose those precincts under a plan now being considered to draw new Senate districts.

Barker says the reason is simple: "Political power."

The senator, a Democrat, says about 80 percent of his district would change, along with Democratic Fairfax County Senator Dave Marsen who would also lose about 80 percent of his current precincts. Fairfax County Senator Toddy Puller, also a Democrat, would lose about 70 percent of her current precincts.

"They are trying to target the Democratic senators who represent districts that are basically swing districts," Barker says.

The move outraged Del. David Toscano (D-Charlottesville), who believes it violates the state constitution.

"Under the constitution, you can only redistrict every 10 years and we did it back in 2011, the ramifications of something like this are far-reaching, because it suggests that you can redistrict every single year, depending on who's in power," Toscano said.

The change would also likely cost Sen. Creigh Deeds (D-Bath County) his seat. Deeds and Toscano introduced a bill to make redistricting in Virginia a non-partisan affair.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell criticized the surprise move by fellow Republicans this week but did not say whether he would veto the measure if it's approved by the House. Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw is vowing to challenge the redistricting effort in court, if it's approved by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

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