On Tuesday, a panel of federal judges picked a redistricting map for Virginia House of Delegates, from a series of proposals submitted by a special master. The chosen map is expected to shift some districts towards the Democrats and help them gain control in this year’s election.
In June, the judges had ordered a new map after ruling that the lawmakers had radically manipulated 11 House districts by packing them with black voters. Out of these 11 districts, most were in the Richmond and Hampton Roads area.
However, they chose new district lines from the received proposals. The judges gave all sides until February 1 to file objections.
The nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project analyzed the maps, revealing that the plan could shift six Republican-held districts toward Democrats, including the district of Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox, which would become 32 per cent more Democratic.
The redistricting modules chosen by the court were called “legally indefensible” by Cox. He said they attempt to “give Democrats an advantage at every turn.”
Cox also added, “The modules selected by the Court target senior Republicans, myself included, without a substantive basis in the law.”
The Republicans are scheduled to appeal at the Supreme Court this spring. They had earlier appealed in the high court to hold the lower court’s ruling, which was rejected. This implies that the election season will begin with the map finalized by the lower court for the Virginia House.
Although disappointed with the chosen map, Cox seemed optimist as he stated that no matter what happens with the redistricting, his party is “prepared to defend and rebuild our majority in the House.”
Democrats had stated that the results of 2017 House elections revealed that gerrymandering protected Republicans from the will of the voters.
Currently, GOP holds a 51-48 majority in the Virginia House, with one additional seat to be decided in a special election next month.
The Virginia Public Access Project calculated that the maps would move voters between 370,000 and 436,000 to new districts.
Marc Elias, an attorney who brought the redistricting lawsuit on behalf of a group of African-American voters, said, “We are one important step closer to the end of the GOP’s racial gerrymander.”