On Tuesday night’s edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow took aim at Virginia’s Republican party, which she said is using gerrymandered electoral maps to rig elections in its favor.
She began the segment by saying that as of Tuesday evening, people were still dancing in Washington, DC, in celebration of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. On Tuesday afternoon, President and Mrs. Obama greeted a tour group with Bo, the White House dog in tow. Hours later, they presided over the White House Staff Inaugural Ball, which Maddow described as “an office Christmas party if your office is the kind of office that can book Lady Gaga to entertain the guests.”
The inauguration of a president, whether for his first or second term, Maddow said, is a big deal. There were, by some estimates, a million people in Washington for the event. One of those people was Democratic state senator from Virginia named Henry Marsh. Marsh was a civil rights pioneer and now sits on Virginia’s board of state legislators.
That state senate, however, is an evenly divided chamber, 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. Republicans seized the opportunity presented by Marsh’s absence for the inauguration to redraw the state’s electoral districts, stacking the state’s population distribution in their party’s favor.
The gerrymandered map takes away one Democratic seat entirely. They could be left with only 16 winnable seats, which would potentially put them in a permanent minority on the state’s legislative board. Republicans argue that the move was justified because they created a new all-black district. The trouble is that they did it by carving a big chunk of out Marsh’s district while he was in Washington.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell decried the Machiavellian maneuvering of his party on Tuesday, but declined to say whether he would sign the redistricting bill into law should it reach his desk.
Meanwhile, Virginia Republicans are also trying to change the way the state elects presidents, using the new gerrymandered district maps to determine the state’s electoral vote distribution. Similar efforts are underway in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida, all states that went Democratic in 2012.
“This has very quietly and very quickly become one of the most important political stories in the country,” said Maddow. “Republicans are not in power in Washington. They control the House, but that’s it. Republicans didn’t win the last election. They don’t control the Senate and President Obama is going to serve a second term. That is the message this week in Washington.”
But away from Washington, she said, Republicans are working to use their power in the states to make it structurally impossible for Democrats to win.
She was then joined by Virginia state Sen. Donald McEachin (D), one of the Democrats who voted against the Republican redistricting plan. He said that the Republican maps are neither germane to their districts nor are they constitutionally sound.
“It’s our hope that the system will correct itself,” McEachin said, “and that cooler heads will prevail.” Should the decision reach the governor’s desk, Democrats in the state hope that he will veto it. He calls the redistricting measures “sore loser bills.”