Virginia Supreme Court Rejects Case Seeking To Reinstate Prison Gerrymandering
WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Sept. 22, the Virginia Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by a Virginia state senator, T. Travis Hackworth (R), and individual voters arguing that new redistricting laws in Virginia violate the state constitution. In particular, the petitioners challenged how the state will now count prisoners in drawing districts, arguing that counting prisoners at their last known address (as opposed to the prison in which they are incarcerated) will dilute the voting power of Republicans in rural Virginia. The petitioners asked the court to prohibit the newly formed Virginia Redistricting Commission from using the new redistricting laws to draw a new set of maps following the release of 2020 census data. The state Supreme Court held that the extraordinary relief they sought was not warranted and denied their petition.
Numerous voting and civil rights organizations filed amicus briefs opposing the petition, arguing that “prison gerrymandering has a profound impact on the electoral strength of communities of color and particularly Black communities, as racial disparities in incarceration rates combine with the concentration of prisons in overwhelmingly white parts of the state to transfer political power away from Black communities—an effect that is compounded by the disenfranchisement of 1 in 7 Black Virginians who are unable to have a say in local electoral politics of either their prison districts or the communities from which they hail.”