The Virginia redistricting decision

Rick mentioned the Virginia congressional redistricting decision earlier today.

I’ve already seen some confusion about this: the decision doesn’t depend on Shelby County.  Indeed, as I read it, the decision would have been exactly the the same if Shelby County came out differently — or hadn’t been decided at all.

Instead, what the court found is that Virginia’s deployment of race in the redistricting process was hamhanded rather than nuanced, and therefore unconstitutional.  That is, in purportedly attempting to comply with section 5, Virginia focused on a demographic target alone, without any attention to the actual “effective exercise of the electoral franchise” on the ground.  That kind of shorthand doesn’t fly, not least because it shows exactly the sort of essentialism section 5 was designed to combat.

Unfortunately, Virginia’s mistake is all too common this cycle.  As Rick says, this issue is also involved in the Alabama case now up before the Supreme Court.  But it’s not just Alabama.  Versions of this same problem have cropped up in California, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas — at least.

I’ve reviewed each of these cases, and the governing law — arriving at essentially the same conclusion as the court in Virginia — in this new law review piece.  The majority cited no secondary source; perhaps because mine is the first I’m aware of that connects the dots on the overly blunt misinterpretation of the Voting Rights Act.  (Law Review 2Ls: it’s still available!  Act now, while supplies last!)


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