Virginia Redistricting Case Heads for New Round at High Court

WASHINGTON (CN) — Virginia Republicans who are trying to preserve state legislative districts that were struck down as racially discriminatory persuaded the Supreme Court to take up their appeal Tuesday.

The challenge to the 2012 maps started when voters from a dozen districts complained that  majority Republicans had packed black voters into certain districts to make surrounding districts whiter and more Republican.

Though a federal court upheld the map initially, the Supreme Court revived the case last year in a 7-1 ruling, ordering the lower court to review the maps for racial-bias in all but one district.

That review led a three-judge panel to conclude this past June that race was improperly used to draw the 11 districts.

Represented by the firm Baker & Hostetler, the Virginia House of Delegates wasted no time filing its appeal.

The Supreme Court did not issue any comment Tuesday in taking up the case, as is its custom.

“In addition to the questions presented by the jurisdictional statement, the parties are directed to fully brief the following question: Whether appellants have standing to bring this appeal,” the order states.

Virginia’s case is one of two that the Supreme Court agreed this morning to hear. The other case involves jurisdiction in a challenge under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

Reacting to the Virginia grant in an email this morning, an attorney for the voters was confident that the court will rule against Virginia.

“This is the third time the Supreme Court will hear cases related to Virginia’s unconstitutional gerrymander,” said Marc Elias with Perkins Coie. “We have prevailed in each of the first two and expect to again here. What is most important is that the voters of Virginia have constitutional maps in time for the 2019 state house elections.”

Efrem Braden with Baker & Hostetler declined to comment on the order, but Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox defended the constitutionality of the districts drawn by lawmakers.

“As we said in our filing, it is ‘implausible that every House fact witness was dishonest, that every House expert used bad methodology, that race predominated in every challenged district, and that no challenged district needed to be above 55% BVAP under VRA §5 — and, at the same time, that every fact witness for plaintiffs was honest and accurate, every expert witness for plaintiffs used reliable methodology, and every factual inference was in their favor,” Cox said in a statement Tuesday.

In the brief, BVAP stands for black voting age population. Cox also used an abbreviation for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

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