The U.S. Department of Justice approved Virginia’s congressional redistricting plan Wednesday, allowing the new district boundaries to take effect for June primaries and the November general election.
The federal approval ends a lengthy and contentious redistricting process that began last year and stalled when the politically divided General Assembly could not reach an agreement on a congressional district map. When Republicans took control of the state Senate in January, a GOP-crafted plan quickly passed both houses of the legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell.
The federal government must approve Virginia’s redistricting plans to ensure compliance with a provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits discriminatory reapportionment schemes.
The late-day news of the Justice Department’s approval is significant because a delay could have affected the schedule for party primaries in congressional races and the battle for Virginia’s open U.S. Senate seat. The General Assembly last week passed legislation that would have pushed the primaries back to August if the Justice Department had not cleared Virginia’s redistricting plan by April 3. Now the primaries will take place on June 12, as originally scheduled.
“We are pleased that the Department of Justice has recognized the plan conforms with federal law and we are looking forward to elections this fall,” McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin said.
– Michael Sluss