U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Lower Court Ruling in Virginia Racial Gerrymandering Case

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision today in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, finding that the trial court used the wrong standard when deciding that race did not predominate in the drawing of 11 of Virginia’s state legislative districts.  The Court has remanded the case back to the trial court for reconsideration.  The 6-2 decision of the Court was authored by Justice Kennedy.  All eight justices concurred that the trial court used the wrong legal standard, but Justices Alito and Thomas disagreed with the majority’s decision to remand the question of whether race predominated — they both would hold that it did without further proceedings.

The Southern Coalition for Social Justice filed an amicus brief in support of plaintiffs in the case arguing that the state’s unnecessary use of race in redistricting fractured African-American communities and packed black voters into as few districts as possible and thus violating the U.S. Constitution.

Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued the opinion:

“We are confident that the trial court will recognize that Virginia assigned voters to districts based on their race without justification when the case is reconsidered using the correct legal standard. Today’s decision reaffirms that racially packing legislative districts is unconstitutional and will not be tolerated.  The excessive use of race in redistricting is harmful for all voters.”

The amicus brief filed by SCSJ can be found at bit.ly/Bethune-Hill.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion on the case can be found at https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/16pdf/15-680_c07d.pdf.