The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled Wednesday in Bethune Hill et al v. Virginia State Board of Education at al [opinion, PDF] that Virginia’s redistricting scheme must be examined for racial bias. The case revolved around [SCOTUSblog materials] around the drawing of district lines in Virginia and whether race was a predominant consideration in the drawing of new districts after a 2010 census. The court held that the district court employed an incorrect legal standard when it determined that race did not predominate in 11 of 12 of the newly districts and that the district court’s judgment regarding District 75—that the legislature had good reason to believe that a 55 percent target for African American voting/age population was necessary to avoid diminishing the electoral power of voters—is consistent with the basic narrow tailoring analysis explained in Alabama Legislative Black Caucus v. Alabama [SCOTUSblog backgrounder]. The court sent the case back to the lower courts for further consideration.
Voting rights and gerrymandering have become increasingly important issues over the past year. In January a three-judge panel for the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin ordered the state legislature [JURIST report] to redraw legislative district lines by November 1. Earlier in January the US Supreme Court blocked [JURIST report] a ruling ordering the redrawing of the congressional district map and special elections to be held in North Carolina. This came after the Supreme Court heard arguments [JURIST report] in racial gerrymandering cases from Virginia and North Carolina in December. In September several organizations filed a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s voter registration system [JURIST report]. Last April the Supreme Court unanimously upheld [JURIST report] an Arizona commission’s decisions regarding the redistricting of voting districts in the state.