Justices dismiss GOP appeal over Virginia districts

WASHINGTON (AP) — A unanimous Supreme Court has dismissed a Republican appeal over congressional districts in Virginia.

The justices on Monday left in place a decision by a lower court that said Virginia illegally packed black voters into one district to make adjacent districts safer for Republican incumbents.

Republican members of Congress wanted the court to reinstate the districting map. But the justices ruled that the elected officials did not have the right to challenge the court ruling.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the court that there is no “record evidence that supports their claim of harm.”

The same three-judge court that threw out the map drawn by the state Legislature in 2012 has since created new districts that are in place for the 2016 congressional elections.

The dispute concerned the old boundaries of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, which is the only one in the state with a majority of African-American residents. Represented
by Democrat Bobby Scott, the district ran from north of Richmond to the coastal cities of Norfolk and Newport News, and its shape has been described as a “grasping claw.”

Scott’s seat is one of 11 congressional districts in Virginia. Republicans who controlled the state Legislature when the new map was drawn in 2012 created districts that elected eight Republicans and three Democrats. At the same time, Democrats carried Virginia in the past two presidential elections and hold both Senate seats and the governor’s office.

The lower court has since drawn a new congressional map, in which Scott’s district is more compact and no longer includes Richmond, for use in this year’s elections.

Republican House members wanted to preserve the map as it was adopted because they fear that a redrawn map could water down minority strength in Scott’s district and increase the number of Democratic-leaning black voters in neighboring Republican districts.