Move to Redraw Senate Districts Could Change Balance of Power in State Senate

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

HARRISONBURG, Va. -- Right now, Virginia's Senate is split between 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. A recent move by Republican senators to redraw Virginia's Senate districts could give their party an advantage.

Dr. Bob Roberts, a James Madison University political science professor, said a vote to give Republicans an advantage in the Senate surprised him.

“The problem is, it's perceived as being very underhanded, and it's very disruptive to the governor's agenda,” said Dr. Roberts.

The plan would work against Democratic Sen. Creigh Deeds, who represents parts of the Valley, but Sen. Deeds thinks the plan will fail.

“It was a premeditated political power grab, Washington-style politics,” said Deeds.

Deeds also said the plan affected relationships among senators.

“It put a poison, it poisoned the well, so to speak, within the Senate of Virginia. It destroyed working relationships on any number of issues.”

Dr. Roberts said the plan could be illegal, but that's up for the courts to decide.

“Republicans are defending, you know, it has been done to us. We're just doing it back,” said Dr. Roberts, “The problem is you do it when the districts are drawn every 10 years. You don't do it after the districts are drawn. That's where the controversy is, and that's where the Virginia Supreme Court may have trouble with this.”

Dr. Roberts also said Republicans acted unlike they usually do in the Senate.

“They've gotten everyone mad at them. But, the Republicans want control, and therefore, we'll see what happens. It's the governor's interest versus long-term senators. We'll have to see how this plays out over the next couple of weeks.”

A WHSV reporter reached out several times to Republican Sen. Emmett Hanger, who represents District 24, which could be impacted by the plan. Sen. Hanger has not yet made a statement.

The redistricting plan wouldn't go into effect until 2015 and that's when Senate seats will be up for election.

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