Republican legislators who lead the General Assembly face an unusual prospect as they redraw the state’s congressional map to comply with a court order. For the first time in nearly a quarter century, a Democratic governor must sign off on legislators’ plan to redraw congressional district boundaries. That means Gov. Terry McAuliffe could hold out for a more competitive map than the current configuration in which Republicans hold eight of the state’s 11 U.S. House seats. “The Republicans, I think, are really in a bit of a bind,” said Bob Holsworth, a veteran political analyst who headed then-Gov. Bob McDonnell’s bipartisan redistricting panel in 2011. McDonnell did not push for the panel’s recommendations, which the legislature ignored. In 2012 McDonnell signed off on a plan written by General Assembly Republicans.
If the Republicans who control the General Assembly do not present McAuliffe with a more competitive congressional map, the governor could veto the measure and let the matter go to court, Holsworth said.
That means a judge could draw the new district lines based on criteria of equal population, compactness, contiguous boundaries and communities of common interest — not partisan advantage. Republicans “have the possibility of losing two or three seats if you let it go to the court,” Holsworth said.
On Tuesday, a three-judge federal panel ruled 2-1 that legislators must redraw Virginia’s congressional map because it packs too many additional African-American voters into what already was the black-majority 3rd District, represented by Democrat Robert C. “Bobby” Scott.