A federal three-judge panel, on a 2-1 vote, yesterday declared the 3rd Congressional District of Virginia (Rep. Bobby Scott-D) unconstitutional because of racial gerrymander. This means a partial re-draw will commence at some point after the 2014 election and before the 2016 nomination cycle begins.
The 3rd District begins in downtown Richmond, travels to Petersburg, comes back toward the James River, and then juts south to annex most of the cities of North Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth, and downtown Norfolk. The plaintiffs’ argument was basically that the Republican-dominated legislature drew this seat to pack as many African American Democratic voters as possible into this one district.
Because the specific communities were added to make the seat 56.9 percent black, the plaintiffs claimed the territory was “packed” for political reasons. They said the final racial composition figures diluted the regional African-American vote by drawing one such strong black district. Many have argued that this area could sustain two districts where African-American influence is heightened. The Republican defendants argued they were not retrogressing the district as dictated by the Voting Rights Act.
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