Over the summer, a federal court ruled that Virginia’s current GOP-drawn congressional map was unconstitutional and therefore appointed a special master, UC Irvine Prof. Bernard Grofman, to help redraw the lines. On Tuesday, Grofman released two proposed remedial plans, which are both similar to one another (and to a plan Daily Kos Elections community member JacobNC previously submitted to the court) in terms of their impact on racial and political representation. Earlier this year, Republicans appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to save the current map, but if the lower court’s ruling stands, some version of Grofman’s proposals will likely become the map used for the 2016 elections.
By way of background, the court had previously ruled that Republicans legislators had illegally packed black voters into a single 3rd District stretching from Richmond to Norfolk. That allowed the GOP to ensure that all surrounding districts would vote for Republicans, while simultaneously depriving black voters in the area the ability to elect their candidate of choice. That latter issue is what made the current map illegal under the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Voting Rights Act.
Grofman’s remedial proposals (which you can find in full here) would constrain the Democratic-held 3rd to just the Hampton Roads region, leaving it just shy of an African-American majority but safely blue. Meanwhile, the 4th District, currently held by GOP Rep. Randy Forbes, would take in heavily black areas in and around Richmond, making that seat around 41 to 42 percent African-American. Consequently, these plans would likely to give black voters in the 4th a strong opportunity to elect a black representative, and Democrats would almost certainly pick up either of Grofman's versions of the 4th District, since Obama would have carried them with over 60 percent of the vote. (Grofman's changes to other districts are minimal.)
Altogether, these remedial plans represents a small but clear win for Democrats, who would hold the revised 3rd and almost certainly gain the new 4th. Sadly, though, this case demonstrates once again that it pays for Republicans to violate redistricting law. Thanks to the glacially slow pace of our judicial system, the GOP has had the benefit of running under illegal maps for two of the five election cycles this decade. But, as long as the Supreme Court doesn’t interfere further, Democrats will at least have a fairer playing field for the next three elections that will take place before the 2020 round of redistricting.
Wednesday, Nov 18, 2015 · 2:28:41 AM +00:00 · David Nir
Grofman did not include full maps with his submission to the court, but Stephen Wolf has filled the gap. Grofman labeled one of his plans “Current Congressional Plan Modification 16,” which you can find at the top of this post or in larger size here. A map of the second plan, called “NAACP Plan Modification 6,” can be found here.