Voting Rights Roundup: Supreme Court won't block order to redraw Virginia's state House gerrymander

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Virginia: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court delivered a major victory in the fight against Republican gerrymandering in Virginia when it declined the GOP’s request to stay a lower court’s ruling that ordered lawmakers to redraw 11 state House districts that had been struck down for discriminating against black voters. The high court’s refusal to halt the lower court’s proceedings while it considers Republicans’ appeal is a strong sign that the GOP will ultimately lose that appeal.​

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​Consequently, Virginia is poised to have new, fairer districts for this November’s elections. And since Republicans hold just a 51-49 majority in this increasingly blue state, Democrats will have a strong chance to win back the House for the first time since the 1997 elections.

Because Virginia’s GOP-majority legislature and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam couldn’t agree on replacement districts last year, the district court overseeing the case appointed a nonpartisan expert to assist it with drawing a new map. That “special master,” UC Irvine law professor Bernie Grofman, has already released multiple proposals that would fix these discriminatory districts. Grofman’s maps would alter as many as 26 of the chamber’s 100 districts (largely in the Richmond and Hampton Roads regions) because a number of districts adjacent to the 11 invalidated ones will also have to be adjusted.

The lower court will review Grofman’s proposals ahead of a Jan. 10 hearing, putting the judges on track to implement a new map by March. That would ensure that this year’s primaries can still take place in June as scheduled. With fairer maps in place for this November’s elections, black voters will have a more equitable opportunity to elect their preferred candidates—generally speaking, black Democrats. As a result, Democrats will have better odds of taking back power following the 2017 elections, which saw the GOP’s majority shrink from 66-33 to just 51-49, even though Democratic candidates won the most votes statewide.

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