The Norman Transcript


May 4, 2014

Lawsuit alleges ’racial gerrymandering’ in Va.



The district also received the required U.S. Justice Department approval under the Voting Rights Act, which the board says is a defense against the lawsuit.

An alternative redistricting plan filed by the plaintiffs would reduce black voting strength in the 3rd district to 50.2 percent. The board says in its pretrial brief that the alternative plan would shift a large number of black voters to a swing district currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Rigell, making it a heavily Democratic district “in direct violation of the General Assembly’s legitimate political, incumbency-protection and core-preservation goals.”

The 3rd district stretches from Norfolk northwesterly into Richmond, with an arm jutting into heavily black Petersburg. The Newport News portion of the district is horseshoe-shaped. The plaintiffs describe the district’s appearance as “a series of islands connected over land by other districts and over water by the broad James River.”

A member of the steering committee of a Virginia redistricting reform organization agreed that the district looks peculiar.

“It is clear that you could design a district that complies with the Voting Rights Act that is not so horribly gerrymandered,” said Terry Cooper of OneVirginia2021, which wants Virginia to turn redistricting over to a nonpartisan commission but takes no position on the lawsuit.

The 3rd has been a black-majority district since 1991. Scott, the state’s only black congressman, was elected in 1992 and has easily won his nine re-election bids.

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