- Did the Virginia Legislature impermissibly use race as a predominant factor in creating its Third Congressional District?
- And do Republican congressmen, alleging that the redistricting process hurt them politically, have standing to challenge the ruling that struck down the original redistricting plan?
In 2012, Virginia’s congressional redistricting plan increased the Third Congressional District’s black voting-age population from 53.1 percent to 56.3 percent. The Supreme Court will consider whether the Virginia’s redistricting plan impermissibly relied on race in drawing congressional districts, and whether Republican congressmen have standing to appeal the lower court’s ruling, which struck down the original plan. The appellants in this case including Congressman Wittman contend that political considerations, not race, predominated the redistricting plan. They also argue that the Republican congressmen were injured because the redistricting plan affected their reelection chances. But several voters including Gloria Personhuballah argue that the Third District was drawn with race as the predominant factor. Personhuballah maintains that the Republican congressmen lack standing because they have not suffered any injury as a result of redistricting. This case could change who can challenge potentially discriminatory redistricting plans, and what constitutes racial gerrymandering.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
1. Did the court below err in failing to make the required finding that race rather than politics predominated in District 3, where there is no dispute that politics explains the Enacted Plan?
2. Did the court below err in relieving Plaintiffs of their burden to show an alternative plan that achieves the Legislature’s political goals, is comparably consistent with traditional districting principles, and brings about greater racial balance than the Enacted Plan?
3. Regardless of any other error, was the court below’s finding of a Shaw violation based on clearly erroneous fact-finding?
4. Did the majority err in holding that the Enacted Plan fails strict scrutiny because it increased District 3’s black voting-age population percentage above the benchmark percentage, when the undisputed evidence establishes that the increase better complies with neutral principles than would reducing the percentage and no racial bloc voting analysis would support a reduction capable of realistically securing Section 5 preclearance?
5. Do Appellants have standing to appeal where it is undisputed that any judicial remedy will change at least one district represented by an Appellant and harm that Appellant’s re-election chances and interests as a Republican voter?
In 2012, the Virginia legislature approved a congressional districting plan (the “2012 plan”). See Page v. Virginia State Bd. of Elections, Civil Action No. 3:13cv678, 2015 WL 3604029, at *3 (E.D. Va.
- Julian Notaro, Race-Based Gerrymandering Comes to the Court, The American Prospect (Jan. 20, 2016).
- Greg Stohr, Republicans Get U.S. Supreme Court Hearing on Virginia Voting Map, Bloomberg (Nov. 13, 2015).
- Supreme Court to Decide Virginia Redistricting Case, Al Jazeera America (Nov. 13, 2015).