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Virginia Speaker Against Redrawing Senate District Lines

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Virginia House Speaker Bill Howell has shot down a controversial plan to redraw state Senate districts that was narrowly passed by the Senate two weeks ago.

The redistricting plan had been lying dormant since last year, and was brought to the Senate on the day of the inauguration, which Democratic Sen. Henry Marsh was attending. This gave Republicans a one-vote margin. The new plan was attached to a House bill and created a new minority-majority district and an advantage for some Republicans. Democrats were appalled and hoped that Speaker Howell would toss the plan out. He did.

Sen. Dick Saslaw and other Democrats had argued it's unconstitutional. "The small technical changes that the House has made would pass constitutional muster," says Saslaw. "Where you run into problems is if you did a wholesale redistricting, which is what occurred here."

Senate Republicans said they remain committed to creating a sixth majority-minority district as required by the Voting Rights Act, and said they're confident that those new districts will be the ones under which the 2015 elections will be conducted.

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