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.
Not long ago, a federal court ruled the Republicans’ 2011 handiwork unconstitutional because it “packed” African Americans into the 3rd Congressional District, which was created to be an African American-majority district by then-Gov. Doug Wilder, a Democrat. The court said these voters must be reassigned to one or more surrounding districts, all of which are held by Republicans.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, called the General Assembly back to Richmond Monday to comply with the federal court order giving the state until Sept. 1 to pass a new plan with new district lines.