(CN) – Democrats seeking majority control in the Virginia House of Delegates should have an advantage in the fall election after a panel of federal judges on Tuesday accepted a proposal to redraw 26 voter districts.
The proposed reconfiguring of the map comes after the judges in the Eastern District of Virginia found lawmakers had gerrymandered 11 House districts by race, jamming those regions with black voters.
The final redistricting plan from a special master will be filed with the court by Jan. 29. Objections to the new map are due by Feb. 1.
According to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, the panel’s acceptance of the proposal could mean that six Republican-dominated districts may soon be fully converted into Democratic strongholds.
The special master chosen to handle the redistricting plan has said redrawing the lines of the 11 districts also affected adjacent districts, meaning a total of 26 districts will be redrawn.
Of the 100 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates, Republicans only hold a slim majority of 51 to 48.
In a statement Wednesday, Virginia’s Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox lamented the ruling.
“The Eastern District Court selected a series of legally indefensible redistricting modules that attempt to give Democrats an advantage at every turn. The modules selected by the court target senior Republicans, myself included, without a substantive basis in law,” Cox said. “In fact, in many cases the rationale given by the special master for the modules selected by the court contradicts the court’s own opinion.”
Cox also said he intends on appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We will continue to fight for the 2011 redistricting plan that was passed by the General Assembly with bipartisan support, including Governor Ralph Northam, signed into law and approved by President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice,” he said.
No matter what the final map looks like, however, Cox said Republicans remain ready to “defend and rebuild” their majority in the House.
Cox’s own district could see a dramatic swing if his appeal is unsuccessful. Analysis conducted by the Virginia Public Access Project predicts his district would lean further left by at least 32 percent of voters.
Perkins Cole LLP attorney Marc Elias – who also served as Hillary Clinton’s general counsel during her 2016 bid for the presidency – lauded the panel’s decision.
“We are one important step closer to the end of the GOP’s racial gerrymander,” Elias wrote on Twitter.
Once redistricting goes into effect, areas such as Richmond and Hampton Roads will see the greatest shift.
Virginia and several other states do not require voters to register by political party before voting in primaries.