The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of Virginia voters who challenged the drawing of the state’s electoral districts on the grounds that they had been “Gerrymandered” along racial lines to give Republicans an advantage.
In its 5-4 decision, the court made no ruling on the merits of the case. Instead, it dismissed an appeal launched by Virginia’s House of Delegates on procedural grounds, allowing a lower court’s decision in favor of the voters to stand.
Gerrymandering is a widespread political practice in the U.S. where state lawmakers redraw the state’s electoral districts in favor of the party in power.
Last year, a panel of judges in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that Virginia’s majority-Republican legislature had illegally concentrated African American voters in districts in order to weaken their electoral impact.
Following the decision, the court ordered the legislature to draw a new map, but after it failed to do so, the judges chose their own map from several proposals from independent experts.
With the Supreme Court declining to hear the House of Delegates’ appeal, that map will now go into effect.
Though the Supreme Court’s decision will not set a broader precedent on the issue of Gerrymandering, it could have a significant impact on Virginia’s elections.
According to an analysis from the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, six districts currently held by Republicans will now have a voting base made up of a majority of registered Democrats.
In total, 26 districts will be reorganized in order to address the Eastern District’s decision, which said that 11 districts were illegally Gerrymandered.
African American voters are widely regarded as being a core constituency of the Democratic Party. In the 2016 presidential election, exit polls showed that 88 percent of black voters in Virginia cast their ballot for Hillary Clinton, while only 9 percent voted for Donald Trump.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion for Monday’s decision, which found that the House of Delegates did not have standing to represent the state as a whole.
“One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process,” the Justice wrote.
Ginsburg was joined by fellow liberal justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as conservatives Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch in ruling against the House of the Delegates.
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