Supreme Court denies GOP stay application, Isle of Wight stays in 3rd District

Published 2:23 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2016

By Matt Leonard

Staff Writer

The United States Supreme Court has denied a stay requested by Virginia GOP lawmakers who wanted congressional district lines imposed by a federal appeals court repealed until the court decides the same case later this summer.

The decision means Isle of Wight County will be in a newly drawn Third Congressional District currently represented by Congressman Bobby Scott in this year’s upcoming election along with Newport News, unless overturned by the Supreme Court. Surry County, currently in the Third, will be part of the Fourth District.

The newly-drawn lines create one more competitive district that a special master,, who drew the new lines for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, believes could potentially vote Democratic due to an increase in black voters.

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The new lines were implemented by the court after the Virginia General Assembly failed to redraw the lines as ordered by the court.

“When the General Assembly failed to act, we took up the task of drawing a remedial plan,” the appeal court majority opinion said.

Republican lawmakers applied to the Supreme Court for a stay, saying the redrawing of lines was “unprecedented” could cause “irreparable harm.”

Applicants included Congressman J. Randy Forbes, whose Fourth District was affected by the redrawing of the Third and was made more competitive as a result.

Racial gerrymandering was the court’s reasoning for redrawing the lines. Appeals Court judges said Republican law makers had packed black voters into Scott’s district. Democratic lawmakers in the state were the ones to bring the original suit.

The court brought in Bernard Grofman of the University of California, Irvine to act as special master and help redraw the lines. He presented the courts with two options and the court decided which of his plans would best alleviate the issue of racial gerrymandering.

The new districts will decrease the black population in Scott’s district from 56 percent to 45 percent, but increased the black electorate in the neighboring fourth district from 31 percent to 40 percent, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

The appeals court said they created the new lines when they did because it would give politicians time to learn their new districts.

“By adopting a remedy now, the Commonwealth faces the lesser evil of implementing new districts at a time when it remains a relatively manageable task,” the opinion stated.

The supreme court has the case on its docket as well, but their decision won’t be made until later this year. This stay does not have an affect on the high court’s final decision.

Scott cautioned that it’s not over until the Supreme Court rules on it.

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“That should pretty much put an end to it,” Scott said of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling.