Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Will McDonnell keep campaign pledge on bipartisan redistricting?

Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed a record $2.2 billion employer contribution to the state pension over the next two budget years.
Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed a record $2.2 billion employer contribution to the state pension over the next two budget years.

It’s too early to turn on the Flop-O-Meter.  

That’s our response to readers who are wondering why we haven’t examined whether Gov. Bob McDonnell has remained true to his campaign promise to bring bipartisan redistricting to Virginia.

The General Assembly has been meeting this week to approve new districts for all 100 delegates and 40 senators. Next week, it will consider a new election map for the state’s 11-member delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.

It’s all part of the once-a-decade process of redrawing political maps to conform representation to population shifts revealed in the U.S. census. And, of course, politicians in the majority party use the process to draw safe districts for themselves and saddle rivals with inhospitable voters.

This year is no different. House Republican leaders are backing a plan that would move the Southside district held by Minority Leader Ward Armstrong, D-Henry, to Northern Virginia. The Norfolk district held by Democrat Paula Miller would be moved 150 miles north to Prince William County.

Democratic leaders in the Senate have introduced a plan that would squeeze into the same district two Virginia Beach Republicans: Frank Wagner and Jeff McWaters. Two other Republican incumbents also would be lumped in the same district: Stephen Newman of Lynchburg and Ralph Smith of Botetourt County.

McDonnell, in his 2009 campaign, said, "I do believe we need to institute bipartisan redistricting  to ensure greater citizen involvement and the vigorous exercise of democracy that is perquisite for successful government."

McDonnell pledged to establish a bipartisan citizens’ commission to draw election maps. He appointed the 11-member panel in January and it has drawn electoral maps with an eye toward compact districts, not partisan concerns.

But Tucker Martin, McDonnell’s director of communications, last week distanced the administration from from the panel. He said "the recommendations of the commission are theirs alone; they are not recommendations of the governor."

McDonnell will have an opportunity to weigh in after the General Assembly approves redistricting plans and they’re sent to the governor’s desk.

We’ll be watching.