Annual efforts to change the way Virginia draws election districts, and to do away the state’s unique prohibition against governor’s running for re-election, moved forward Tuesday at the Capitol. They won bipartisan support in lopsided Senate committee votes, but continue to face an uphill climb that has toppled similar measures for years. Legislative leaders from both chambers didn’t give any of these measures high chances for success. “I would be surprised if we would move too far along,” said Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. “Tommy” Norment, R-James City. Several redistricting bills moved forward, though. They differ in details, but each seeks to move Virginia away from the partisan process that allows the legislature to draw its own maps. Some rely on appointed commissions. At least one would have legislative staffers draw maps for General Assembly approval, similar to a method used in Iowa.
Most of the bills call for a change in the state Constitution, a process that takes two General Assembly votes, with a House of Delegates election in between, followed by a statewide referendum. At least one redistricting bill changes only state code. That’s a shorter process, but with less permanent results since another General Assembly can reverse the change.
One, or some, of these proposals may make it out of the state Senate. But with the House of Delegates long opposed to such changes, and a pair of court cases pending on Virginia’s current election maps, Norment said he doesn’t expect consensus this year. House Majority Leader Kirk Cox was more direct. “I would not think that has a chance,” said Cox, R-Colonial Heights.
Reform supporters are passionate, though. There was some talk Tuesday of pushing for Tea Party support to persuade conservative members in the House, which is dominated by the Republican Party.