A divided U.S. Supreme Court handed down a victory Wednesday for black legislative leaders in Alabama, and the decision may signal a coming win for Virginia Democrats fighting Republican-drawn election maps here. The court’s 5-4 decision sends Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama back to the federal district court there with an admonition that the case be re-argued. Plaintiffs there argued that Alabama legislators unfairly packed minority voters into districts to dilute black voting strength elsewhere. A federal judicial panel in the state disagreed, but the U.S. Supreme Court vacated that decision Wednesday. A three-judge panel in Virginia decided just the opposite in a case challenging the state’s 3rd Congressional District, which is held by U.S. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-Newport News. Federal judges here decided last year that race was the predominant factor in drawing district lines and ordered the map redrawn.
Virginia’s Republican members of Congress appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, delaying the redraw. Both sides wanted to see the court’s decision in the Alabama case, thinking it instructive in Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, as well as in a separate case alleging this same minority packing in Virginia House of Delegates districts.
Those maps have contributed to strong Republican majorities in Virginia’s congressional delegation, as well as in the state House of Delegates.
The court’s Alabama included fiery dissents from conservative justices. But election law experts said the decision is likely good news for people who want to see Virginia’s lines redrawn because it points to the logic justices will use in deciding Virginia’s case.