High court sends back ruling on Virginia redistricting

AP News
Posted: Mar 30, 2015 1:36 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judicial panel must take another look at its ruling that Virginia state lawmakers packed too many black voters into one congressional district, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday.

The justices ordered the three-judge panel to review the case in light of the high court's ruling last week in an Alabama redistricting case. In the Alabama case, the justices said a lower court failed to consider claims that the new districts limited minority voting power.

In a 2-1 ruling last year, the panel that the Republican-controlled General Assembly packed too many black voters into Virginia's black-majority 3rd Congressional District to make adjacent districts safer for GOP incumbents. The court initially ordered state legislators to redraw new boundaries by April 1, but that requirement was lifted after eight current and former Republican congressmen appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat, has represented Virginia's only black-majority congressional district since 1993 and has never faced a serious challenge. He is one of only three Democrats in the state's 11-member delegation.

With Democratic backing, two voters from the 3rd District filed a lawsuit challenging the district map. The plaintiffs said the lawmakers who drew it could have shifted a large number of black voters from Scott's district into a neighboring district currently represented by a Republican, increasing Democratic influence there without substantially diluting the voting strength of blacks in Scott's district.

During the mapmaking process, the Republican majority rejected an alternative plan that would have created a second black-majority district.

Republicans also have opposed proposals by Democrats to task an independent commission with the responsibility of drawing the state's political boundaries.