Court to look at GOP appeal over Virginia congressional map

AP News
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Posted: Nov 13, 2015 3:04 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear an appeal by Virginia Republicans who want the court to reinstate a congressional map drawn by state lawmakers.

The justices said Friday they will review a lower court ruling that threw out the map, concluding that lawmakers illegally packed black voters into one district to make adjacent districts safer for Republican incumbents.

The state Legislature failed to draw a new map last summer and the lower court has now appointed an expert to come up with a new districting plan.

The justices directed both sides to examine whether Republican members of Congress who neither live in nor represent the affected district even have a right to press the case in federal court.

The dispute concerns Virginia's 3rd congressional district, which is the only one in the state with a majority of African-American residents. Represented by Democrat Bobby Scott, the district runs from north of Richmond to the coastal cities of Norfolk and Newport News and its shape has been described as a "grasping claw."

A three-judge court has twice struck down the district because it found that race played too big role in drawing the district.

Scott's seat is one of 11 congressional districts in Virginia. Republicans who controlled the state Legislature when the new map was drawn in 2012 created districts that elected eight Republicans and three Democrats. At the same time, Democrats carried Virginia in the past two presidential elections and hold both Senate seats and the governor's office.

Republican House members want to preserve the map as it was adopted because they fear that a redrawn map could water down minority strength in Scott's district and increase the number of Democratic-leaning black voters in neighboring Republican districts.

But the justices indicated they are not certain whether that fear is enough to give the Republicans the right to bring their case.

That issue, and the fate of the map, will be before the court when arguments are heard in February or March.

The case is Wittman v. Personhuballah, 14-1504.