The state will redraw districts for the Virginia House, Senate and U.S. Congress.
State legislators are beginning a complicated and contentious effort to redraw Virginia's political lines. It is a process that affects who represents who in Richmond and Washington.
Redistricting happens once a decade and is complicated by politics and race. Also, for the first time since Reconstruction, one party in Virginia does not control the entire process which lawmakers will have to compromise or face the effects of a stalemate.
Legislators will redraw districts for the Virginia House and Senate, and for Congress, based on population changes since 2000. The goal is to have each district represent about the same number of constituents. Democrats control the State Senate and Republicans hold the House, so experts expect those parties to try to protect their incumbents. But that is not going to be the biggest fight.
"My thinking is that the real tension in redistricting this year is going to come about the redrawing of these congressional district lines and at the moment, I don't see an easy compromise," explained Political Analyst Bob Holsworth.
Because Virginia is a Voting Rights Act state, the feds also have to review the redistricting plan to make sure the new lines do not discriminate based on race. Should that review lead to a lawsuit, Virginia's 2011 elections could be seriously delayed.
One potential flashpoint in this debate will be the Fifth Congressional District. Republicans likely will try to draw Charlottesville and other more liberal areas out of that district. In order to keep the Fifth competitive in 2012, Democrats will try to keep those cities in.