Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Will the Redistricting Battle Mess Up Elections in 2011?

It happens once every ten years, and is considered extremely important to both parties. Once the census is complete state legislatures will be able to draw/gerrymander the states congressional districts, and legislative districts.

Virginia is different than most states in that we hold regular state legislative elections in odd-numbered years. So in 2011 we will vote in a new General Assembly. While most states have a year to complete the redistricting process, we don't! And there are many factors which make a quick redistricting process nearly impossible. Consider the following; Democrats control the Senate, Republicans the House which means a longer negotiation period on any proposed plans. In addition like most southern states, Virginia has to get approval from the Justice department for their redistricting plan. Ironically, Virginia which elected the nations first African American governor 20 years ago still needs to get Federal approval.

It seems likely that the new boundaries will not be drawn and approved in time. What will happen to the 2011 elections? Well, the most interesting scenario comes from Josh Goodman in an article he wrote for Governing Magazine:

"Without a quick agreement on new lines, a judge will have to decide what to do with the 2011 elections. The most likely decision will be to follow the 1981 precedent, with legislators on the ballot(in the old district)in 2011 for one-year terms in the Senate and House. This would put all 140 seats in the General Assembly back on the ballot in 2012 as President Obama is seeking reelection."

If this scenario comes to pass Democrat legislators will have to run with an unpopular Obama in 2012. That could cost Democrats even more seats if Obama, as I suspect, will not only fail to carry Virginia, he will be lucky if he breaks 40 percent of the vote. Perhaps such a nightmare scenario will compel the Democrat Senate to push for a quick decision on the new lines. It Should be interesting to watch.

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