On a day that one seat left was left vacant in the state senate, Republicans were able to pass an amendment that changed district lines to the benefit of their party.
Now senate Democrats are vowing to fight the changes in court.
Republicans say they were trying to create another minority district to satisfy 1965 Voting Rights Act – but Democrats argue they actually created more GOP dominant districts.
The senate is split equally in Virginia – 20 seats for each party. Yesterday Republicans took advantage of Democratic senator Henry Marsh’s absence – while he attended the presidential inauguration the Republican amendment was pushed through by one vote.
“I was outraged and I was saddened yesterday afternoon to learn that the Senate Republicans had used my absence to force through radical changes to all 40 Senate districts,” Sen. Marsh said in a statement. “I wanted to attend the historic second inauguration of President Obama in person. For Senate Republicans to use my absence to push through a partisan redistricting plan that hurts voters across the state is shameful.”
Marsh said he believed the redistricted lines were unconstitutional.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, a Republican, said he was surprised and disappointment by the move.
“I certainly don’t think that’s a good way to do business,” the governor told the Richmond Times-Dispatch at a Tuesday morning breakfast meeting. “This is not an issue that I advocated and I was surprised about the vote yesterday.”
Virginia’s U.S. Senators, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine echoed the governor’s concern in a joint statement:
“On a day when Americans celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday and inaugurated Barack Obama as President, Virginia Senate Republicans took advantage of the absence of civil rights leader Sen. Henry Marsh to push through a hyper-partisan change to Virginia’s already gerrymandered legislative district map. This is not the way we should be conducting the people’s business in Virginia. We are encouraged by Governor McDonnell’s statements today expressing disapproval of the tactics that were used. We urge legislative leaders and other elected officials to do the right thing to correct this disappointing and disruptive partisan action.”