A hypothetical court-drawn map of Virginia congressional districts
In a blow to Republicans, a three-judge federal panel has once again ruled that Virginia's congressional map is an unconstitutional racial gerrymander
. The 3rd District, located in the Richmond and Hampton Roads areas, was the focus of plaintiffs' objections, and a majority of the judges agreed that the GOP packed too many African-American voters into this seat—a move that strengthened their hold over neighboring districts.
If this case sounds familiar, that's because this same trio of judges previously invalidated the map back in October. Back then, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the panel to reconsider the case in light of a new SCOTUS ruling that found that Alabama's legislative maps constituted an impermissible racial gerrymander.
Since the high court's Alabama decision was friendly to the plaintiffs who'd alleged that race had been improperly taken into consideration in the first place, it's unsurprising that the Virginia judges, who had originally found for the plaintiffs in their case, haven't changed their minds. As a remedy, they've ordered the legislature to redraw the lines to remedy the map's unconstitutional defects by Sept. 1. If that doesn't happen, the court will have to step in, assuming the GOP does not successfully appeal this ruling.
And there's a good chance we'll see such a logjam happen. Both the state House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, while the governor, Terry McAuliffe, is a Democrat. But what would a stalemate mean for Virginia's congressional districts? Stephen Wolf proposed a hypothetical map that would unpack African-American voters from Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott's 3rd District and make the 4th—currently held by GOP Rep. Randy Forbes—majority black. Both districts would be reliably blue, so if we see an outcome like this, we can expect Republicans to keep appealing.
For now, though, this ruling is very good news for Democrats, since as long as it holds up, it's likely to net the party an additional seat. Given that Barack Obama won Virginia 51-47, it's a travesty that Mitt Romney carried seven of the commonwealth's 11 congressional districts. This case won't create parity within Virginia's delegation, but it'll help move things in the right direction.