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The stage is set for Virginia's redistricting battle

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February 2, 2011

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By Kyle Maichle

RICHMOND, Virginia: The Commonwealth of Virginia is expected to receive its neighborhood population data from the U.S. Census Bureau on February 3, 2011.[1] Receiving the data will be the first step in beginning a once-in-decade process of redrawing Virginia's legislative and congressional districts.[1]

The General Assembly will use the data during a special session on redistricting in April of 2011.[1] The session is expected to be politically charged when a split-controlled Legislature battles over incumbency and drawing new maps that reflect shifting population from Southern to Northern Virginia in the past decade.[1][2]

The issue of timing could prevent lawmakers from finishing up redistricting work in 2011.[1] Virginia is one of four states to hold state elections in November 2011.[1] Some Republicans who hope to win control of the State Senate could push back congressional redistricting to 2012.[1] However, Democrats would oppose any redistricting delays.[1] New congressional districts do not have to be drawn up until the 2012 elections.[1][3]

Lawmakers will be given input on redistricting from a bi-partisan advisory commission.[1] Governor Bob McDonnell created the commission on an executive order.[4] The commission will operate independently from the legislative and executive branches of Virginia government.[4] Commission members will make any recommendations directly to the Governor, legislative leaders, and chairpersons of Elections and Privileges committees in the House and Senate.[4] The first meeting was held on January 31, 2011 at Virginia Commonwealth University.[4] The commission will plan to have its recommendations in place by April 1, 2011.[4]

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