By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed gubernatorial vetoes on six redistricting bills which made politically advantageous technical adjustments to the boundaries of a number of House of Delegates districts.
Senator Mamie Locke said chances are the House will override the governor’s veto. But if the Governor vetoes a bill, a two-thirds vote in each house is needed to override the veto.
“It will go to the House and they will be able to override the governor’s veto because the Republicans outnumber the Democrats,” said Mamie E. Locke, D-Hampton, who authored the 2011 redistricting plan that Democrats said was unconstitutional and disenfranchised African Americans by packing too many into one of the 11 congressional districts.
“But we will be able to sustain the governor’s veto in the Senate because they don’t have the votes (to override the veto),” Locke said. “They have tried to make these technical changes to impact their district,” she added. “They are not doing anything that is vitally important to redistricting.”
The governor’s redistricting vetoes, which were first reported in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, passed during the 2015 General Assembly session, which ended earlier this month. Lawmakers return to Richmond April 15 to consider the Governor’s amendments and vetoes to legislation.
Although Locke predicted the Governor’s vetoes will stand, she said, “They will come back next year with the same bill. But they need to be more concerned about the fact that there are lawsuits out there.”
In February, a panel of three federal judges granted the Virginia General Assembly more time to redraw the state’s congressional map, according to news reports. This was after a panel of judges declared changes in U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott’s district unconstitutional in October 2014.
“We’re obviously thrilled with the results,” Attorney Marc Elias said in the Washington Post at the time. “The Republicans engaged in impermissible racial gerrymandering in a cynical effort to gain seats. We look forward to the state doing a new redistricting to comply with the court’s orders.” Elias represented two voters from the district where the unconstitutional redistricting took place.
In the lawsuit, a number of plaintiffs had complained that the Virginia legislature, which draws these maps after the 10-year U.S. Census, packed minority voters into the 3rd Congressional District which stretches from Richmond to Hampton, and is represented by Scott. The 3rd Congressional District is the state’s lone black-majority district. Opponents of the redistricting plan said it aimed to shrink Democratic minority influence.
Locke said, “They need to be more concerned about the fact that there are lawsuits out there. I would think they would be more concerned about doing that (meeting the September deadline set by the court) than this frivolous legislation about redistricting.”