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Posted by on Mar 31, 2015

Supreme Court asks Virginia panel to reexamine redistricting decision

The Washington Post

By Jenna Portnoy and Robert Barnes

March 30 at 5:00 PM
The Supreme Court on Monday told a federal judicial panel in Virginia to take another look at its decision that lawmakers improperly packed minority voters into one congressional district.

The court sent the case back to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia without comment, following its decision last week in a similar case from Alabama.

In the Alabama case, the court ruled 5 to 4 that lower court judges should look more closely at whether lawmakers made race the predominate factor in drawing new district lines after the 2010 census.

[Supreme Court hands win to opponents of Alabama redistricting plan]

In Virginia, a three-judge federal district court panel ruled in October that the Virginia General Assembly must draw new congressional maps, because the current plan concentrates African American voters into a single district at the expense of their influence elsewhere.

Both the Virginia and Alabama cases hinge on when it’s legal to use race to draw district boundaries.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs in the Virginia case, along with several independent experts, said it is unlikely that the federal court in Virginia will make a different ruling this time around.

“I wouldn’t expect anything to change,” said Marc Elias, who represented two voters from the district where the redistricting in question took place.

Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who runs a blog about redistricting, said nothing in the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Alabama case gives the Virginia court any reason to alter its original ruling.

“Alabama strengthened the trial courts’ decision against Virginia,” he said. “Essentially the accusations against Virginia that the trial court found to be true are really, really, really close to the accusations against Alabama.”

But Michael A. Carvin, who is representing former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Virginia’s Republican congressional delegation in their appeal of the lower court’s decision, drew the opposite conclusion. “We’ve always been confident in our defense and there’s no reason to think differently now,” Carvin said.