Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
Virginia is one of only a few states that holds regular state legislative elections in odd-numbered years. When it comes to redistricting, that's a problem.
Other states will have all of 2011 to draw their new lines. But, Virginia has to draw the districts in time for candidates to run for office the very same year. Well, at least in theory that's what Virginia has to do. Ben Tribbett (better known as Not Larry Sabato) lays out an alternative scenario in Washingtonian:
In 1981, a judge ruled that the new redistricting plan violated the Voting Rights Act and ordered the General Assembly to draw single-member districts across Virginia. Because of the late timing, delegates were allowed to stand for reelection in their old seats in 1981 for one-year terms. After returning to Richmond and passing new legislative lines, the delegates would stand for another one-year term in 1982 before seeking a full two-year term in 1983. Senators elected to a four-year term in 1979 were unaffected and ran for another four-year term in 1983.
Fast-forward to today, and this same scenario seems probable--except this time state senators and delegates are both scheduled to be on the ballot in 2011. Without a quick agreement on new lines, a judge will have to decide what to do with the 2011 elections. The most likely decision will be to follow the 1981 precedent, with legislators on the ballot in 2011 for one-year terms in the Senate and House. This would put all 140 seats in the General Assembly back on the ballot in 2012 as President Obama is seeking reelection.
For young whippersnappers such as myself, it's tough to grasp the chaos that redistricting can cause. We'll know all about it soon enough.
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