Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Court-imposed election map paved way for new Virginia congressmen

When two new members of the Virginia congressional delegation are sworn in Tuesday, they can partially thank a panel of federal judges for their seats in Congress.

The judges fiddled with the boundaries of the districts enough to allow a Democrat to win in Richmond and a new Republican to oust an incumbent in the Virginia Beach area.

That means hello, Rep.-elects Donald McEachin (D) and Scott Taylor (R). Goodbye, seven-term congressman J. Randy Forbes (R).

Their unexpected paths to victory — or early retirement — reveal the extent to which the nuances of an elections map can help determine winners and losers.

The Virginia map changes started with a lawsuit filed by Democratic lawyer Marc E. Elias in 2013.

He argued a district represented by Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D) illegally packed enough African Americans into its boundaries to diminish their influence elsewhere. Elias said the Virginia congressional case in some ways was a model for lawsuits in North Carolina and at the state level in Virginia, for which he is awaiting a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

“We learned a lot in Virginia about how the Republican legislature approaches redistricting, and the Republican legislature hopefully learned that it can’t abuse its powers,” Elias said Friday.

The federal judges eventually handed down a new map that moved a significant number of African American voters, a group that tends to vote for Democrats, into Forbes’s district.

Read more: Court-imposed election map paved way for new Virginia congressmen

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