Virginia’s General Assembly districts, already under attack from a federal lawsuit, will face a new challenge in coming months: A lawsuit in the state courts questioning their fitness under the state constitution. The federal challenge alleges that the assembly’s Republican majority packed minority voters into a handful of districts to dilute their strength – and boost GOP fortunes – in neighboring ones. This new suit will focus instead on the idea of compactness. Like many modern-day districts, a number of Virginia House and Senate districts stretch into amoeba-like ink blots as they meander across the map, picking up known pockets of Republican or Democratic voters.
Modern mapping software makes it possible for politicians to go precinct-by-precinct to satisfy federal voting rights requirements for minority inclusion and, critics say, pick their own voters in a political gerrymander.
Virginia’s constitution says that “every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory.” The state’s current House and Senate maps don’t meet that criteria, according to Brian Cannon, an attorney and executive director of OneVirginia2021.
This group has been pushing in recent year’s for independent redistricting reforms, with a goal of implementing them before the next round of redistricting: 2021, following the next U.S. Census.