Court rules 3rd District fouled by ‘gerrymandering’

Posted at 7:54 PM, Oct 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-08 00:36:25-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- A panel of federal judges declared Tuesday that gerrymandering fouled Virginia's 3rd Congressional District, and its current congressional maps are unconstitutional.

New maps will need to be submitted.

That district covers includes all of the independent cities of Petersburg and Portsmouth, parts of the independent cities of Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk and Richmond, all of the Counties of Charles City and Surry, and parts of the Counties of Henrico and Prince George.

Bobby Scott currently represents the district and has for eleven terms, or since 1993.

Within the new district boundaries the black voting age population increased from 53.1 percent to 56.3 percent.

The plantiffs alleged that the Republican state lawmakers who drew the boundaries unfairly grouped too many African-Americans into the district, to weaken the influence of "minority voters."

The legislature ignored constitutionally required redistricting criteria including compactness and contiguity, and unnecessarily split localities, the court ruled.

When the lines were drawn previously, Democrats proposed having two districts with a heavy black population, but it was rejected by the Republican-controlled legislature.

Democrats will likely get their way, not just because of Tuesday’s ruling, but because there is now a Democratic governor.

“The General Assembly plan has to go to the governor and eventually has to get his approval. He'll have veto power over this,” said CBS 6 political analyst, Dr. Bob Holsworth.

State lawmakers were ordered to pass a new map by April 1, 2015.

Scott is up for reelection, but his campaign will not be impacted by the ruling.

“I was not involved in this lawsuit,” Scott wrote in a statement to CBS 6. "However, during the last round of redistricting in 2011, I was a strong proponent of the redistricting plan sponsored by State Senator Mamie Locke, which made all congressional districts in the Commonwealth more compact and contiguous."

"I hope and expect the General Assembly will more equitably and appropriately balance the influence of all Virginia’s voters, as mandated by this decision, when they redraw the third congressional district and adjacent congressional districts next session," Scott said.