Republican House Speaker William Howell used a procedural move to kill a proposed Senate redistricting bill Wednesday.
The bill had drawn much scrutiny since it was passed by Republicans in the Senate on Inauguration Day. Because of the timing, a key Democratic State Senator, also a noted civil rights lawyer, was unable to cast the vote that could have blocked the legislation.
The plan would have created a new majority-black district but also weakened the black vote elsewhere in the state, while increasing Republican voter strength in another eight districts.
Democrats had united in opposition for the bill, and publicly shamed Republicans for the sneaky maneuver. Even Republican Governor Bob McDonnell had shied away from the plan, telling reporters, “I certainly don’t think that’s a good way to do business.”
Many see Wednesday's decision to kill the unpopular redistricting plan as an attempt to win over Democratic support for the governor's transportation plan, which McDonnell has made the focal point of his final year in office and cannot pass without Democratic votes.
The move comes just a day after the same legislature voted to increase voter ID requirements in the state, which many believe could further restrict African-American ballot access.