A federal-court panel on Tuesday struck down Virginia’s congressional map, ruling the state’s last redistricting effort relied too heavily on race in drawing boundaries. The 2-1 ruling, from a Virginia federal court, sided with challengers who said the Virginia election map packed black voters too heavily into one district, reducing their influence in other state districts. The federal judges, sitting as a special election review panel, didn’t require the state to change its map for the midterm elections, which are just weeks away. Instead, the judges said Virginia lawmakers should act “within the next legislative session” to draw new electoral districts. At issue was Virginia’s Third Congressional District, which includes parts of Richmond. The black voting-age population after the redistricting makes up about 56% of the district, according to the court’s opinion. The court described the district as an oddly shaped composition of a “disparate chain” of predominantly black communities.
The district’s congressman, Rep. Bobby Scott, won the district with 70% of the vote in 2010, and won with 81% in 2012 after the redistricting that year.
The court acknowledged that Virginia drew the districts in an effort to comply with the Voting Rights Act, but said Virginia lawmakers added more black voters to the district than needed to ensure that black residents had the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice, especially because the district already had been a reliable congressional seat for minority voters for two decades.