U.S. Supreme Court to decide Virginia redistricting case

Visitors wait in the rain outside the U.S. Supreme Court in the hopes of watching arguments at the court in Washington November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
By Lawrence Hurley

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday said it would hear arguments over whether Virginia's Republican-led legislature unlawfully considered race when drawing congressional districts by packing black voters into one Democratic-held district, diluting their clout elsewhere.

The nine justices will hear an appeal by current and former Republican members of the U.S. Congress challenging a June 2015 lower court ruling that threw out the majority-black district, which is held by Democratic Representative Bobby Scott, who is black. The court will also decide whether the members of Congress have standing to pursue the challenge.

Several voters in the district challenged the redistricting plan, which was approved by the legislature in 2012, saying it minimized minority voting power in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Virginia Attorney General, Mark Herring, who is a Democrat, asked the court not to hear the case.

The voters who first brought the case in October 2013 argued that Virginia's 3rd congressional district stretching from Richmond to Norfolk was racially gerrymandered, reducing the influence of black voters in neighboring districts.

The court will hear oral arguments early next year, with a ruling due by the end of June. The case is Wittman v. Personhuballah, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-1504.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)