Three Virginia plaintiffs are asking a federal judge to delay the upcoming June primaries—AND if lawmakers fail to implement a new congressional redistricting plan, impose one himself. Although the plan was pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department, both sides of a lawsuit that alleges gerrymandering began presenting their case.
The defendant is the State Board of Elections, although state lawmakers drew the district lines. The 3rd district is Virginia’s only majority-African American district. The plaintiffs believe the state is guilty of racial gerrymandering and allege that black voters were packed into the 3rd District, represented by Congressman Bobby Scott, by increasing its black voting-age population. They also say it split precincts and neighborhoods and decreased the black population in nearby districts, which diluted minority influence there. Arguing on behalf of the Commonwealth, Attorney Michael Carven did not deny that precincts were split but said it was based on political makeup—NOT race. Lawmakers who supported the district lines had said that the large number of black voters prevented “retrogression” in the 3rd district—which happens when a plan provides minority voters with less opportunity to elect their candidate. The plaintiffs say the district map is unconstitutional and therefore must be redrawn.