The chief architect of a Republican legislative redistricting plan said Wednesday that race was just one of many factors used to redraw boundaries in Virginia’s House of Delegates, disputing claims that the redistricting sought at all costs to pack black voters into a dozen districts. Del. S. Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, testified in front of a three-judge panel overseeing the redistricting trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. The GOP-controlled House of Delegates is defending itself against a civil lawsuit alleging that the 2011 redistricting unconstitutionally crowded black voters into 12 districts, limiting their influence in the rest of the state.
Specifically, the suit alleges that the plan Jones and GOP leadership pushed through the House arbitrarily required that the 12 districts have at least 55 percent black voting-age populations.
The suit says that amounts to racial gerrymandering, when race becomes the overriding factor in drawing boundary maps.
Jones testified, though, that race was only one of many factors he sought to take into account. He said he tried to accommodate requests from 75 to 80 delegates in the 100-member body who sought to tweak lines, sometimes to draw out precincts where they had historically performed poorly. Sometimes delegates wanted the boundaries changed to draw out a potential primary challenger, he said.