While the eyes of the nation were turned toward President Barack Obama’s second inauguration on Monday, the Virginia State Senate managed to hurriedly pass a bill that would redistrict the state’s senate seats.
The vote, 20-19, would have been a tie had Democratic Senator Henry Marsh been present. Marsh, a civil rights leader, was in Washington, D.C., attending the inauguration.
Had Marsh been present, however, the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Bill Bolling, would likely have broken the tie. The bill was reportedly pushed through in a matter of hours.
According to Virginia politics blogger Ben Tribbett, the move could potentially eliminate at least one Democratic seat, the 25th district, which currently belongs to former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Creigh Deeds (D).
This isn’t the first time that Virginia has attempted to redraw district lines conveniently for Republicans. Just last month, the state’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli lobbied to have the state exempt from the Voting Rights Act’s redistricting requirements because the state had “outgrown” racism. Largely, redistricting has disenfranchised Democratic votes.
The gerrymandering bill now goes to the heavily Republican House of Delegates for a vote, where it will likely face little opposition.
A reporter for a local Virginia paper reports that the Lieutenant Governor Bolling would not have provided the tie-breaking vote had all Senators been present:
.@lgbillbolling spokeswoman says Bolling wouldn’t have voted for redistricting, “has grave concerns… it’s not something he supported”
— Chelyen Davis (@chelyendavis) January 21, 2013