A federal court has ruled Virginia’s congressional map violated the 14th Amendment and instructed the legislature to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries by April 1, 2015. On Tuesday, three federal judges sided with the plaintiffs, who argued the Republican-led legislature drew Virginia’s 3rd District to pack blacks into the district, thus diminishing their influence in neighboring districts and violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The current map will still be in effect for the 2014 elections. The court instructed the legislature to redraw the entire congressional map by April, and there will likely be more legal action before then. “This is going to get appealed to the Supreme Court,” a redistricting expert involved with the case told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview. The expert pointed out the issues in the Virginia case are similar to a redistricting case in Alabama, which the Supreme Court agreed to consider.
A redraw has the potential to drastically change the state’s partisan makeup in the congressional delegation. Virginia is a battleground statewide, but Republicans currently hold eight of the state’s 11 House seats.
In the Virginia case, the defendants argued race was not the primary factor behind the 3rd District’s configuration, and instead the district was drawn to protect the incumbent, Democratic Rep. Robert C. Scott. Although, the legislators also acknowledged they attempted to draw lines to comply with the Voting Rights Act and ensure African-Americans could elect a candidate of choice.