After Governor Ralph Northam (D) declared last week that he would veto House Bill 7003 despite the fact that it garnered bipartisan support, Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) cancelled the October 21 special session which would have led to a vote on the GOP redistricting plan.
“I am rescinding my call for the House of Delegates to reconvene because I do not think we should waste legislator’s time or taxpayer money on a session when the governor’s mind is evidently made up,” said Speaker Cox in a press release. “There was clear progress being made toward a bipartisan legislative solution, and while we wish those efforts could continue it’s obvious that both the governor and the Democratic leadership would rather have federal judges draw the map than allow the legislature to fulfill its constitutional responsibility.”
The redistricting plan from Republicans was prepared with input from some Democrats, but it passed through the Privileges and Election Committee on a 12-10 straight party-line vote.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has given the state legislature until October 30 to come up with a plan to rectify claims of racial gerrymandering in 11 House districts in the Richmond and Hampton Roads metropolitan areas. Without action by the General Assembly, a court-appointed expert will redraw the legislative boundaries.
Cox said, “Six years ago, a national group of liberal donors began a systematic effort to attack the bipartisan redistricting plan adopted by the House, despite pre-approval by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department and overwhelming support from the African American members of the House. This coordinated, partisan effort cost taxpayers millions of dollars and is culminating with an overt attempt to install a court-drawn plan more politically favorable to Democrats than any politically-neutral plan that might emerge from a legislative compromise.”
As the court is set to change legislative districts in Virginia, the control of the House hangs in the balance with Republicans’ one-member majority.