Virginia Republicans pushed through a redistricting plan that would make it easier for the party to take control of the state Senate in 2015 while a key Democrat was away attending the presidential inauguration festivities.
With state Sen. Henry Marsh, D-Richmond, a 79-year-old civil rights leader off to Washington D.C., Republicans got the measure passed Monday by a party line vote of 20 to 19. It will now have to go through the GOP-controlled House of Delegates and be signed by the governor, Talking Points Memo reports.
The new map, which reportedly took Democrats and even Republican Gov. Robert F. McDonnell by surprise, came as an amendment to a bill designed to make "technical adjustments" to House district boundaries. Debate was limited to 30 minutes, the Washington Post reported.
The measure's sponsor, Republican Sen. John Watkins of Powhatan, said it was an effort to create another majority African American Senate district. But Democrats say it would make at least five districts held by Democrats heavily Republican, the Post reports.
"It goes against every tradition," state Sen R. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath, told TPM. "It was a dirty trick."