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Federal appeals court orders Va. congressional district lines redrawn

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 6/19/2015, 11:47 a.m.
For the second time, a three-judge panel has found the General Assembly illegally packed black voters into a single congressional ...
Rep. Scott

Democrats would have more say in drawing new lines because of the election of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, in 2013. He could use his veto pen to kill a Republican-drawn plan he does not support.

The big question in the Virginia case — and in the similar Alabama case — is whether the people drawing the lines are using the Voting Rights Act as an excuse to reduce black voter influence.

That 1965 law required states with a history of black voter suppression, including Virginia, to create majority-minority districts where feasible and to ensure such districts survive when redistricting takes place. The 3rd District is a majority black district.

However, the judicial panel determined that lawmakers added more black people to the 3rd District than necessary on the pretense of protecting its majority-minority status.

Rep. Scott cheered the decision in a statement, describing it as being in line with the latest U.S. Supreme Court rulings barring racial packing of election districts.

“While I was not involved in this lawsuit, I was a proponent of the redistricting plan sponsored by Sen. Locke in 2011, which made all congressional districts in the Commonwealth more compact and contiguous.” 

The Virginia State NAACP also applauded the appeals court decision.

Jack Gravely, interim state NAACP executive director, told reporters last week that the organization had not been involved in the redistricting suits involving the congressional and General Assembly districts, but planned to be more active in lobbying for greater fairness if and when the legislature redraws district boundaries.