Taking advantage of the absence of one Democrat who attended the inauguration, the otherwise evenly split Virginia state senate passed through a redistricting map that will enhance the GOP’s advantage:
The state Senate is split 20-20 between Republicans and Democrats. On Monday, while state Sen. Henry Marsh (D) — a 79-year-old civil rights veteran— was reportedly in Washington to attend President Obama’s second inaugural, GOP senators forced through a mid-term redistricting plan that Democrats say will make it easier for Republicans to gain a majority.
With Marsh’s absence, Senate Republicans in Richmond had one more vote than Senate Democrats and could push the measure through. The new redistricting map revises the districts created under the 2011 map and would take effect before the next state Senate elections in Virginia and would redraw district lines to maximize the number of safe GOP seats.
The fact that Mr. Marsh is older and a civil rights veteran is irrelevant, it simply adds very bad optics to an otherwise awful phenomenon. The effects of redistricting are already coming into the mainstream attention, though it may be too little, too late.
Gerrymandering is not a GOP-only issue, of course, but I think the GOP has been in better state-level positions right after the last census or two. Regardless of who’s benefiting more, gerrymandering is clearly becoming a threat to our political system the same way SuperPACs are, and we need to start reforming before the next census, or it simply gets mired down in the politics of the moment. The problem, as always, is that I don’t trust the GOP to do anything in a non-partisan way, and I don’t think the Democrats have the political discipline to even approach the Gordian knots involved.
If you live in Virginia, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to call the Governor’s office (804-786-2211) and start screaming about the unfairness of the plan (it needs his signature still). GOP Governors have been more receptive to constructive criticism lately…