A Virginia congressman’s claim that he has a legal right to a district designed to re-elect him ran into skepticism at the Supreme Court on Monday. The court at an oral argument was examining a claim by Rep. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) that a lower court order voiding Virginia’s congressional map for violating the Voting Rights Act had in turn harmed his chance of re-election. Last year, a special three-judge federal court in Richmond, Va., found the state legislature’s congressional map was a racial gerrymander that illegally concentrated black voters into a single district, diminishing their political power elsewhere in the state. When the legislature failed to draw a new map addressing those findings, the Richmond-based court adopted a new map that swapped black and white voters in adjacent districts, increasing the Democratic population of Mr. Forbes’s congressional district to 60% from 48%.
Michael Carvin, an attorney representing Mr. Forbes and other Virginia Republican politicians seeking to preserve the GOP-favorable map, said the new map “substantially diminishes, indeed eliminates, his chances for election.”
Several justices at the high court, including Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, were skeptical of the claims. “It’s one thing to say, ‘I’m a voter and I’ve been racially discriminated against.’ What is the incumbent claiming?” Justice Sotomayor said.
Justice Elena Kagan acknowledged that Mr. Forbes might be harmed by having his re-election chances diminished, but she appeared to doubt whether that entitled him to sue to get his more favorable district back. “What is the legally recognized interest here that the legislators are banking on?” she said. “That he wants to be elected,” Mr. Carvin said.