Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday vetoed a bill that would require registrars to deny applications by people who leave out certain details, such as whether they are 18 years old. McAuliffe also vetoed the House version of legislation to extend coal tax credits, terming the credits ineffective. House Bill 298, sponsored by Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, was identical to Senate Bill 44, which McAuliffe vetoed March 11, the last day of the General Assembly session. Del. Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, sponsored House Bill 9, which sought to specify in greater detail information applicants are required to provide on the voter registration form.
The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday that it will review whether Virginia lawmakers improperly packed minority voters into one congressional district at the expense of their influence elsewhere in the state. The court will consider whether earlier court decisions that ruled the districts invalid were correct. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia has twice invalidated the boundaries of a snake-like district that stretches from Richmond southeast to Norfolk — and ordered lawmakers to redraw the election map. The Supreme Court’s action represents a small victory for Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), whose chambers would draw up the boundaries. Republicans had insisted on letting appeals play out before they abided by the order in case the high court intervened, as it did Friday.
A panel of three federal judges ruled Thursday that the 12 House of Delegates districts that Democrats challenged in federal court are constitutional, giving Republicans a win for now in Virginia’s fraught political map-making battle. The 2-to-1 ruling comes four months after a separate three-judge panel sided with Democrats in a similar case centered on the state’s redistricting of its congressional map four years ago. The contrary rulings ensure that the redistricting battle in Virginia will continue for some time. Democrats on the losing side Thursday said they were likely to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as Republicans already have in the case decided against them in June.
Virginia: McAuliffe says his redistricting plan deserves ‘special deference’ | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s plan to redraw Virginia’s congressional boundaries deserves “special deference” because of his elected position, his lawyers told a federal three-judge panel Wednesday. The judges have twice ruled that Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District is unconstitutional because state legislators packed too many additional African-Americans into its boundaries, diluting their influence elsewhere. Last month McAuliffe submitted one of 11 proposed fixes sent to the court. He urged a “comprehensive redrawing” of the congressional map, arguing that tinkering would be insufficient.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is right. So is the State Board of Elections, which his office represents. And so are Virginia’s Republican congressmen, who are co-defendants in a suit against the state. All of them either have asked federal judges to post redistricting proposals that might replace the state’s current congressional map, or have signified their assent to the request. Three U.S. District judges will redraw the state’s congressional districts after the General Assembly failed to come up with its own plan by a court-imposed deadline. A number of other interested parties, including Gov. Terry McAuliffe and various good-government groups, who are not litigants in the suit have submitted their own maps.
Virginia: McAuliffe proposed 'comprehensive redrawing' of congressional map | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Friday proposed a “comprehensive redrawing” of Virginia’s congressional map in order to fix constitutional flaws with the 3rd District. Lawyers representing Republicans in Virginia’s U.S. House delegation offered narrowly drawn proposals meant to correct the violation while deferring to the legislature’s choices in redistricting. A federal panel is working to redraw Virginia’s U.S. House districts after twice ruling that Virginia lawmakers packed too many black voters into the 3rd District, diluting their influence in adjacent districts. The judges who will redraw the lines gave outside parties a Friday deadline to propose revised maps. At least eight outside parties proposed redistricting plans by the judges’ deadline Friday.
The three federal judges overseeing Virginia’s court-ordered redistricting plan wasted no time taking on their role as congressional district mapmakers. When the General Assembly failed to submit new district map by the Sept. 1 deadline, the panel quickly assumed the task. One of its first steps was to find an independent special master, a legal expert in mapping and demographics to draw up new district boundaries. A special master is commonly appointed in complicated matters in which certain legal expertise is needed. The court also is showing some transparency and openness by allowing citizen groups or individuals to submit proposals.
Virginia: U.S. court moves ahead with plan to redraw Virginia congressional maps | The Washington Post
Two days after Virginia lawmakers blew their court-imposed deadline for redrawing the state’s congressional election maps, federal judges on Thursday began to take matters into their own hands. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia set an ambitious schedule for naming an expert to help judges set new district boundaries and accepting suggested maps from legislators. Last year,the court declared Virginia’s congressional map unconstitutional, saying it packs African American voters into a single district at the expense of their influence elsewhere. The court later ordered the General Assembly to adopt a new map by Sept. 1. Congressional Republicans appealed the decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to say if whether it will hear the case.
Virginia: Paralysis on redrawing the boundaries of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District | Daily Press
Sept. 1 brings yet another reminder of the partisan rancor that too often paralyzes the Virginia General Assembly these days. Despite convening briefly for a special session in mid-August, that body failed to meet the deadline imposed by a federal court for redrawing the boundaries of the state’s Third Congressional District. … While the legal and political wrangling continues, the failure of the General Assembly to address its responsibilities will likely leave the map-drawing in the hands of the federal judiciary — a job that the League of Women Voters of Virginia suspects the judges are not eager to take on. The league believes that these maps are a good place to begin, because they were developed by persons seeking to adhere to the redistricting requirements embedded in the Virginia Constitution, rather than by persons seeking only to amass enough voters of the right political stripe in their districts to assure their easy re-election.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe says his administration has restored the voting and civil rights of more than 10,000 Virginians with criminal records. The Democratic governor said Monday that more Virginians have had their rights restored under his watch than under any other governor in a four-year term. That process allows an ex-offender to vote, run for public office and serve on juries. McAuliffe has made several changes to the process, including allowing residents to submit their application before they’ve paid their court fees.
When it turns political, the American arts scene sometimes descends into such heavy-handed didacticism that it can make Ayn Rand seem as frolicsome as P.G. Wodehouse. So it is a delight to report that the Virginia Political Repertory’s production of “Special Session: Redistricting” avoids this trap, and instead delivers keen observations on homo politicus. The script cleverly weaves two seemingly unrelated plot lines: congressional redistricting and judicial appointments. These might seem unlikely topics for compelling drama, but in the deft hands of the cast they become powerful vehicles for exploring the contradictions of contemporary governance and the foibles of the political class.
The same federal three-judge panel that has twice ruled that Virginia’s congressional map unconstitutionally packs blacks into the 3rd District will now be responsible for remedying the injustice it found. How will the court arrive at a new map for the 2016 elections? “We don’t know,” Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt told CQ Roll Call Tuesday. “I think they were really hoping the legislature would do it.” The court had given the General Assembly a Sept. 1 deadline to redraw district lines, and Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe had called a special August session to begin that process. But the state Senate failed to agree on a map Monday, when a dispute over a Supreme Court appointee derailed the session.
Editorials: Virginia’s redistricting chaos in black and white | Norman Leahy and Paul Goldman/The Washington Post
The best way to view the chaotic end to Virginia’s special legislative session on congressional redistricting is through the words of French novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s famous epigram “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” We have been here before, Virginia. In 2011, Republicans and Democrats in Virginia’s General Assembly had their decennial redistricting battle. Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico) pushed a plan designed to elect two African Americans out of the state’s 11 congressional districts. Did McEachin gerrymander the districts to get this result? Of course. Republicans, not surprisingly, wanted a plan creating only one African American district. Did the GOP gerrymander its plan? Of course. In the end, Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed a redistricting plan written by Republicans to help Republicans. Democrats called the plan unfair to them. It was.
The public never got its say on changes to Virginia congressional district boundaries and the state’s political redistricting process. But federal judges soon will. A public hearing on redistricting ended abruptly Monday when the House Privileges and Elections Committee chairman, Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, refused to take further testimony after announcing that the Senate had adjourned the special legislative session hours after it began. Cole interrupted Diana Egozcue, president of Virginia NOW and the sixth of 19 scheduled speakers, with the announcement, “We’re no longer in session, so we can no longer take your testimony.” House Republican leaders appeared shell-shocked by the Senate maneuver, which ensures the General Assembly will not meet a Sept. 1 deadline imposed by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to fix unconstitutional defects in the redistricting plan that then-Gov. Bob McDonnell signed in January 2012. Gov. Terry McAuliffe issued a statement that explicitly kicked the issue back to the courts and declared, “The opportunity for a legislative remedy has ended.” McAuliffe said he was going to send a letter to the courts. “They need to get this redistricting done,” he said in a meeting with reporters outside the Executive Mansion.
The public never got its say on changes to Virginia congressional district boundaries and the state’s political redistricting process.
But federal judges soon will. A public hearing on redistricting ended abruptly Monday when the House Privileges and Elections Committee chairman, Mark L. Cole, R-Spotsylvania, refused to take further testimony after announcing that the Senate had adjourned the special legislative session hours after it began. Cole interrupted Diana Egozcue, president of Virginia NOW and the sixth of 19 scheduled speakers, with the announcement, “We’re no longer in session, so we can no longer take your testimony.”
House Republican leaders appeared shell-shocked by the Senate maneuver, which ensures the General Assembly will not meet a Sept. 1 deadline imposed by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to fix unconstitutional defects in the redistricting plan that then-Gov. Bob McDonnell signed in January 2012.
If you voted in a Virginia election any time between 2003 and April of this year, your vote was at serious risk of being compromised by hackers. That’s the assessment reached by Virginia’s board of elections, which recently decertified some 3,000 WINVote touchscreen voting machines after learning about security problems with the systems, including a poorly secured Wi-Fi feature for tallying votes. The problems with the machines are so severe that Jeremy Epstein, a computer scientist with SRI International who tried for years to get them banned, called them the worst voting machines in the country. If the WINVote systems weren’t hacked in a past election, he noted in a recent blog post and during a presentation last week at the USENIX security conference, “it was only because no one tried.” The decision to decommission the machines, which came after the state spent a decade repeatedly ignoring concerns raised by Epstein and others, is a stark reminder as the nation heads into the 2016 presidential election season that the ongoing problem of voting machine security is still not taken seriously by election officials. Virginia officials only examined the WINVote systems after Governor Terry McAuliffe tried to vote with one during the state’s general elections last November.
State lawmakers are set to return to the Capitol on Monday for what’s expected to be a contentious fight over congressional redistricting and a Virginia Supreme Court appointment. The fate of the governor’s high court selection is all but certain, but the final look at what Virginia’s new congressional boundaries will look like is less clear. Republican leaders of the GOP-controlled General Assembly plan to elect Rossie D. Alston Jr. Monday as a new justice on the Virginia Supreme Court. His election will remove Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s new appointment to the high court, Justice Jane Marum Roush, who took her spot on the bench at the beginning of this month. The judge fight has been all about politics, as both sides say Roush is a qualified candidate.
The head of Virginia’s elections board on Tuesday postponed action on a plan that would let people registering to vote skip questions about their citizenship and criminal history, saying it needs to be reworked. James , chairman of the Virginia State Board of Elections, said in an email to fellow elections officials that he was pulling the proposal from the board’s September agenda. At the same time, he asserted there was still a need to revamp existing voter registration forms, which seem to routinely trip up would-be voters. The move puts off action on a seemingly arcane administrative matter that hit a nerve with Republicans on the hot-button issues of illegal immigration, voter fraud and the restoration of felons’ right to vote. Hundreds of people flocked to a board meeting two weeks ago to oppose making questions about citizenship and felony convictions optional on voter registration forms. They said the change would make it easier for felons and illegal immigrants to vote fraudulently and suggested that Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was seeking to pump up Democratic voter rolls in the crucial swing state ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
House Republicans on Wednesday laid out their agenda for Monday’s upcoming congressional redistricting special session in Richmond, setting times for a committee meeting and public hearing. GOP leaders said the process — an 8:30 a.m. meeting of the Joint Reapportionment Committee and a public hearing at 3 p.m. — will provide an overview, input and criteria needed to produce a redrawn map. A federal panel has ordered legislators to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries because the current map unconstitutionally packs too many black voters into the 3rd District, diluting their voting strength elsewhere.
Editorials: Redistricting reform in Maryland and Virginia: Can the states join forces? | The Washington Post
Democratic legislative leaders in Maryland issued rote rejections of Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) utterly sensible proposal for congressional redistricting reform last week. In doing so, they were reading from a script that could have been prepared for them by Republican legislative leaders in Richmond, whose equally knee-jerk dismissal of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) efforts have doomed redistricting reform efforts in Virginia. So here’s a modest suggestion that would have the novel effect of elevating the interests of voters in each state, not to mention good government, above the partisan self-interest of incumbent politicians. Why don’t Maryland and Virginia initiate a mid-Atlantic reform compact whose overriding goal would be to tip the scales in favor of fair elections and against rigged ones?
State House leaders on Wednesday released their agenda for Monday’s special session of the General Assembly to redraw U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott’s 3rd congressional district. Matt Moran, a spokesman for House Speaker Bill Howell, said House Republicans don’t yet have a redistricting plan. “We haven’t done the preliminary work necessary to craft a plan,” he said in an email. A federal court found the district, which stretches from Richmond to Norfolk, to be an unconstitutional racial gerrymander and ordered state lawmakers to redraw it. The court rulings came in a lawsuit filed by a Democratic group that alleged too many black voters were packed into the district, diluting their influence.
Virginia: Democrats target Virginia as they push to break down voting restrictions | The Washington Post
After Tracey Bell tried to register to vote in Virginia last year, she got a letter in the mail saying her citizenship was in doubt and she would have to pay $10 to prove it. Confused and annoyed, Bell ranted on Facebook. It was the rare Facebook rant that actually led to government action. A friend put her in touch with the Virginia Democratic Party, which connected her to a lawyer who explained that she had forgotten to check a box confirming her citizenship. She fixed it — and a year later, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) is pushing to have the box requirement eliminated.
Virginia: U.S. court denies GOP request for congressional redistricting extension | The Washington Post
A panel of federal judges on Wednesday denied Republicans’ request to delay a court order to redraw a Virginia elections map that was found to illegally pack African Americans into a single congressional district at the expense of their influence elsewhere. The ruling increases the likelihood that state legislators will have to abide by a call from Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to return to Richmond this month to tackle redistricting. The Republican-controlled General Assembly has been reluctant to accept an earlier court ruling that set a Sept. 1 deadline to adopt new congressional district boundaries. Republicans requested an extension to Nov. 16 to give their congressional counterparts time to exhaust an appeal to the Supreme Court.
National: Democratic Governors Association Unveils a Plan to Fight Gerrymandering | The New York Times
The Democratic Governors Association is creating a fund dedicated to winning races in states where governors have some control over congressional redistricting, the party’s first step in a long-range campaign to make control of the House more competitive. Billed as “Unrig the Map,” the effort will target 18 of the 35 states in which governors play a role in redistricting, and where new congressional maps could allow Democrats to win House seats that are now drawn in a way to favor Republicans. The fund will be used for governors’ races over the next five years, leading up to the 2020 census. Democratic officials said that they hoped to raise “tens of millions” for the effort and that they believed they could gain as many as 44 House seats if lines were more favorably redrawn in the 18 battleground states. Many of those states still have Republican-controlled legislatures, but with Democratic governors in place they could at least veto the next round of congressional maps and send the disputes to the courts.
Virginia: Backlash over checkboxes: Intent questioned on voter registration form edits | Daily Press
State Board of Elections members mulling a redesign of voter registration forms got an earful Tuesday from conservatives who feel the changes would make it easier for non-citizens to vote, and from registrars who voiced a longer list of concerns. The biggest controversy stems from a proposal for checkboxes on the current form, where registrants state whether they’re citizens, whether they have a felony record and whether they’ve been judged mentally incapacitated. Instead of requiring people to check those boxes, the new form would make them optional. It would also beef up the form’s “affirmation” – the statement just above where people sign – to include explicit mentions of all three requirements.
Republican leaders of Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday rebuffed an effort by Gov. Terry McAuliffe to strike a deal on the state’s congressional elections map before a court-imposed deadline. According to a June ruling, the General Assembly has until Sept. 1 to redraw congressional district boundaries, which the court said illegally pack African Americans into a single district to dilute their influence elsewhere. On Tuesday, McAuliffe (D) sent a letter to House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) requesting a meeting “to forge compromise on a plan that is agreeable to the General Assembly and can be reviewed quickly by the public and our congressional colleagues.”
People registering to vote in Virginia would no longer be required to check boxes to indicate whether they are U.S. citizens or felons barred from voting if changes being considered by the Virginia Department of Elections are adopted.Voters would still have to affirm elsewhere on the application – under the threat of a felony conviction – that they are citizens and otherwise eligible. But instead of responding to separate questions about their citizenship or felony status, they would simply sign off on language that attests to their eligibility based on those and other requirements. The distinction may seem small, but it is one that hits the political hot buttons of voter fraud, illegal immigration and the restoration of felons’ voter rights.
Virginia: Proposed changes to Virginia voter registration stirs fears among GOP | The Washington Post
People registering to vote in Virginia would no longer be required to check boxes to indicate whether they are U.S. citizens or felons whose right to vote has not been restored under changes being considered by the Virginia Board of Elections. Voters would still have to affirm elsewhere on the application, under the threat of a felony conviction, that they are citizens and otherwise eligible. But instead of responding to separate questions about their citizenship or felony status, they would simply sign the form on a line near language that attests to their eligibility based on those and other requirements.
Virginia Democrats say their congressional map can’t get any worse. In a state President Barack Obama carried twice, their party holds just three seats in the 11-member delegation. With a new round of redistricting coming up next month, the question now is which districts get rougher for Republicans. A federal district court has given Virginia until Sept. 1 to redraw the lines of Democratic Rep. Robert C. Scott’s 3rd District, which it has twice ruled is unconstitutionally packed with blacks. The district runs along the James River between Richmond and Hampton Roads and is currently 57 percent black, according to 2013 census data. Democrats expect to pick up at least one seat from a wider distribution of black voters, which means one of the eight Republicans may be in for a tougher re-election.
The 3rd congressional districts in Maryland and Virginia are roughly 200 miles apart — depending on which part of their ungainly boundaries one takes as a starting point — and, on the surface, seem to have little in common. Virginia’s 3rd stretches from Norfolk to Richmond. Maryland’s 3rd, with contours often likened to a blood spatter, incorporates parts of Baltimore City, as well as parts of Anne Arundel (including Annapolis), Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties. What they share is a genesis in bald-faced gerrymandering contrived by politicians intent on manipulating electoral maps to their advantage by hand-picking their own voters. Democrats are the culprits in Maryland’s case; Republicans did the deed in Virginia. Encouragingly, there are signs that the jig may be up, or that at least it is facing more pressure than ever before.