A federal court on Friday concluded for the second time that Virginia’s congressional boundaries are unconstitutional because state lawmakers packed black voters into one district in order to make adjacent districts safer for Republican incumbents. In a 2-1 ruling, a judicial panel ordered the General Assembly to draw new boundaries by Sept. 1 to correct the flawed 2012 redistricting plan. The court first struck down the plan in October, but the U.S. Supreme Court ordered reconsideration in light of a ruling in an Alabama redistricting case.The judges in Virginia again ruled that race was the predominant factor — not just one of many considerations — in crafting the plan, thus violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“The legislative record here is replete with statements indicating that race was the legislature’s paramount concern,” Judge Allyson Duncan of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the majority opinion.
The Virginia case is part of a larger effort by Democrats to challenge congressional districts throughout the country. Strong Republican state-level gains in the 2010 election cycle gave the GOP increased power during once-in-a-decade congressional redistricting. Democrats have alleged in lawsuits in other states, including North Carolina, Florida and Alabama, that Republicans have drawn racially gerrymandered districts.