Brief Urges the Supreme Court Not to Sanction the Blatant Racial Gerrymander in Virginia’s Congressional Map: Partisan Benefits Do Not Trump Racial Discrimination


Yesterday, the Campaign Legal Center joined with the League of Women Voters, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the Voting Rights Institute at Georgetown Law in filing an amici brief in Wittman v. Personhuballah, the fourth voting rights case the Supreme Court has taken this Term.  The brief urges the Court to uphold a lower court ruling that Virginia’s 2012 congressional redistricting plan, and in particular District 3 represented by Congressman Bobby Scott, constitutes an intentional, and unconstitutional, racial gerrymander.  The appeal is being pursued by Republican Members of Congress who stand to benefit from the plan’s partisan results and who intervened in the case.  Whether they have standing to pursue the case is one of the issues on the appeal.

“Appellants are essentially asking the Court to eviscerate its prior racial gerrymandering doctrine and sanction the explicit use of race as a proxy to achieve political goals.  This is flatly inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s repeated prohibition on racial stereotyping,” said Campaign Legal Center Legal Fellow Danielle Lang.  “The radical overhaul of the racial gerrymandering doctrine requested by the Congressmen challenging the three-judge court’s ruling would have dire consequences for the equal voting rights of minority communities across the nation.”

The challenge to the Virginia Legislature’s 2012 redistricting plan was originally brought by voters who argued that Virginia’s Third Congressional District, which extends nearly 100 miles from Richmond to Norfolk, was racially gerrymandered.  By intentionally packing as many black voters into the 3rd District as possible they argued, the Legislature allowed racial considerations to predominate the drawing of the district.  In 2014, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia agreed and declared Virginia’s congressional map unconstitutional.  After the Virginia General Assembly failed to enact a remedial plan, the federal court selected a new redistricting plan drawn by a court-appointed special master.  The Supreme Court has denied Appellants’ application for a stay of the implementation of the new map. 

To read the brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court, click here.

Oral argument is scheduled to be heard on March 21, 2016.