Judges Order New Voting Districts in Virginia

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 24, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Judges ordered Virginia legislators to adopt new district lines that mostly likely will change the balance of political power in the state.

The new districts will tip the balance in favor of Democrats, who claim in a lawsuit that the traditional boundaries diluted votes of African Americans. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the gerrymandering case late last year.

With judicial oversight, lawmakers say the redistricting will change everything. It could happen even before the Supreme Court rules.

Democrats Flipping

Republicans currently hold 51 of the 100 seats in the House of Delegates. But Democrats expect to flip at least three seats -- and as many as eight -- under the new district map.

"Democrats are clear favorites to take control of the House later this year, if the electorate looks anything like it did in 2017," said Nick Goedert, a political scientist at Virginia Tech.

Under the new map, six districts will likely see the early changes. Bernard Grofman, a political scientist chosen by the court, drafted it after a court ruling last year that 11 districts were racially drawn.

In November, all 100 House seats will be up for grabs.

Racial Gerrymandering

In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments over gerrymandering. 

The justices took the case, but left open the possibility that Virginia would resolve the issue before the case made it to oral arguments.

Another issue may still interest the judges, however. They may want to decide whether the House of Delegates had standing to sue.

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