New U.S. House map racing through GOP-ruled Va. Assembly

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Now in control of both the Virginia House and Senate, legislative Republicans are rocketing their congressional redistricting plan to passage over Democratic objections that it shortchanges black voters.

Having missed a constitutional 2011 deadline for passage, the Republican-authored plan advanced on a voice vote Thursday to a final reading Friday in an overwhelmingly GOP House.

A Democratic-ruled Senate stymied the plan last year. That happened less than 24 hours after the House Privileges and Elections committee quickly and quietly approved the bill shortly after the 2012 session opened Wednesday.

The Senate, now under GOP rule, could complete work on the bill early next week, readying it for Gov. Bob McDonnell's pen as soon as the end of next week.

Democrats say the bill boosts black voting age percentages in Virginia's lone minority district by taking predominantly white precincts from adjacent districts that become whiter and more likely to support Republicans.

They also note the disparity between Virginia's overall population, which is about one-fifth black, and its congressional delegation of 11 representatives and two senators, only one of whom is black.

Rep. Robert C. Scott, a Democrat and Virginia's first black U.S. House member since Reconstruction, represents the 3rd Congressional District, which snakes along the James River from Norfolk to Richmond and has a black population of 56 percent percent.

"We ought to have more than one minority member of Congress," said Del. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond and a member of the Legislative Black Caucus. "This bill will not allow minorities in any district but the 3rd to elect the candidate of their choice."

Under the fast-tracked bill of Del. Rob Bell, R-Albemarle, the black population of Scott's district would swell to nearly 60 percent the black population of Republican Rep. J. Randy Forbes' neighboring 4th District drops by 2 percent.

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