The Norman Transcript


May 4, 2014

Lawsuit alleges ’racial gerrymandering’ in Va.



The complaint on U.S. District Judge Robert Payne’s docket for May 20 alleges that lawmakers made race the main criteria in redistricting, reaching into heavily black neighborhoods to pull voters into the black-majority 3rd Congressional District even if it meant splitting precincts and ignoring “communities of interest.” The plaintiffs want Payne to postpone the June primaries and impose a new redistricting plan if the General Assembly fails to do so within a couple of weeks.

Elias declined to say how the plaintiffs, 3rd district residents Gloria Person-Huballah and James Farkas, became involved. Person-Huballah said she was “made aware of the opportunity” to become a plaintiff but declined to elaborate, and Farkas refused to comment.

State Attorney General Mark Herring is representing the defendants, the Virginia State Board of Elections, even though he opposed the redistricting plan as a Democratic member of the state Senate.

“In 2012, he voted against this redistricting plan, but this case is about what the law allows, not Attorney General Herring’s policy preference, and these districts were lawfully drawn,” Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said in an email.

The lawsuit claims that by increasing the 3rd district’s black voting-age population from 53.1 percent to 56.3 percent, lawmakers improperly diluted minority influence in surrounding districts.

“Race was the predominant consideration in the creation of Congressional District 3,” the lawsuit says. “No other factor explains the tortured shape of this district, its failure to comply with traditional districting principles or the high concentration of African-American voters in the district.”

The elections board says in court papers that the plaintiffs cannot prove that race rather than politics was the main consideration. The board notes that the redistricting plan benefited GOP incumbents in the four districts surrounding Democratic U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott’s 3rd district. There is no federal law that prohibits drawing maps that favor one party over another.

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