From left: Sen. Creigh Deeds and Sen. Henry Marsh. (Photo: Steve Helber/AP, file)
When the Democratic cats are away, the Republican mice will play. Republicans in the Virginia state legislature, which is evenly divided along party lines, used state Sen. Henry Marsh III's Inauguration Day trip to Washington to push through a disputed redistricting plan. It passed on Monday by a vote of 20-19.
"I was outraged and I was saddened [Monday] afternoon to learn that the Senate Republicans had used my absence to force through radical changes to all 40 Senate districts," Marsh, a civil rights veteran, said. "I wanted to attend the historic 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."
Republicans say the plan will add a majority-Black Senate district, but Democrats argue that it will make some districts more Republican by packing African-Americans in certain districts.
The Department of Justice will have to approve the plan. Virginia is one of several states with a history of racial discrimination that must have changes to voting laws pre-cleared. In addition, it's not clear whether Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell will sign off on it.
"I certainly don’t think that's a good way to do business," he told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "This was not an initiative that I advocated."
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