IN A SNEAK ATTACK notable more for its deviousness than its strategic acuity, Virginia Republicans engineered a bald-faced power grab Monday that would radically redraw the state’s electoral map without so much as a “yea,” “nay” or “maybe” from anything so trivial as a voter.
Taking advantage of the absence of a single Democratic state senator, GOP lawmakers in Richmond rammed through a radically gerrymandered map designed to hand them control of the 40-member state Senate, which is now split evenly between the two parties.
They were able to do so, on a vote of 20 to 19, because one Democratic senator was in Washington to attend President Obama’s inauguration. Touche, Republicans! Count that as a new low for hyper-partisanship, dirty tricks and the unaccountable arrogance of power.
The Republican move was executed in the style of a putsch, arising from a conspiracy and with no warning, public input or debate. Pressing their momentary numerical superiority, GOP lawmakers amended a routine House bill by tacking on a new map, devised in secret. Although this is one of the most partisan redistricting plans in Virginia’s history, the Republicans then cut off debate after 30 minutes.
Fortunately, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, a Republican who counts as a grown-up amid the sneaky schoolboys who dominate his party in Richmond, correctly saw the ruse as an invitation to political Armageddon — and a threat to his own legislative agenda. “I certainly don’t think that’s a good way to do business,” said the governor.
Mr. McDonnell should immediately announce his intention to veto the map. If the redistricting is allowed to stand, it would radically reshape politics in Richmond. Unlike the GOP-dominated House of Delegates, the Senate has been in Democratic hands or closely divided since 2007.
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