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Federal judges reject West Virginia redistricting plan

A panel of three judges in the US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] 2-1 Tuesday that West Virginia's congressional redistricting plan, signed into law last August, is unconstitutional. The Jefferson County Commission [official website] brought suit in November to challenge the constitutionality of the plan, which created a disparity of more than 4,000 citizens between the largest and smallest of the three West Virginia districts. The court determined that the plan, which is nearly identical to the 1991 plan but for the movement of one county, focused too heavily on preserving old boundaries as opposed to equal population distribution. In his decision, Judge Robert Bruce King stated that "change is the essence of the apportionment process," and that it is necessary to address population changes in the plan in order to afford equal voting power to the citizens of West Virginia. The legislature has been given until January 17 to create a new plan.

Texas has also faced challenges to its redistricting plans. Last month, the US Supreme Court [official website] agreed [order list, PDF] to rule on three Texas redistricting plans [JURIST report]. The emergency appeal challenges an interim map drawn up by the US District Court for the Western District of Texas while a separate map drawn up by the state legislature is currently being challenged in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official websites] for compliance with the Voting Rights Act [Cornell LII backgrounder]. The third case deals with the Texas state senate. The justices set one hour of argument for all three cases for January 9.

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