(Reuters) - A panel of federal judges in Virginia has ruled that the state’s 2012 congressional map, which packed black voters into a single district, was drawn up with race being the main factor.
By a 2-to-1 vote, the judges on Tuesday ordered the Virginia General Assembly to redraw the map by next April, though the upcoming elections will be held under the current districts.
“Plaintiffs have shown that race predominated in Virginia’s 2012 Plan,” Judges Allyson Duncan and Liam O’Grady wrote. “We find that the 2012 Plan is unconstitutional.”
The case began in October 2013, when three Virginia voters sued the state’s Board of Elections, arguing the 3rd congressional district was racially gerrymandered, diluting black voters influence in neighboring districts and violating their constitutional rights.
The judicial panel found that race “predominated” in the drawing of the district, which stretches from Richmond to Norfolk and is represented by Democrat Bobby Scott.
They said, however, that delaying the 2014 elections would “unduly disturb Virginia’s election process.” The judges argued that primary elections had already taken place under the current maps and voters were familiar with the candidates.
In dissent, Judge Robert Payne argued that the legislature drew the maps primarily to protect incumbents, with race being just one consideration.
Following the order, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said in a statement, “Today’s ruling demonstrates the need to get partisan politics out of how Virginia draws its legislative boundaries.”
Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe