RICHMOND, Va. — Federal judges picked new redistricting maps this week after an earlier court decision found voting districts were divided by race, also known as racial gerrymandering.
The Virginia Public Access Project, VPAP, analyzed the new maps. It shows six districts could flip from red to blue if you look at the voting trends from the 2012 Presidential Election.
Republicans right now have a 51 to 48 majority in the House of Delegates. The seat for the 86th District, formerly held by Jennifer Boysko, is up for a special election next month after she moved over to the Senate.
Back in June, a court ruled that 11 House districts were racially gerrymandered. Most of them were in the Richmond area or Hampton Roads. The map was originally drawn back in 2011, using the census data from the previous year.
The U.S. Supreme Court still has to weigh in on the case. Justices will likely hear an appeal from the Republican Party in the spring. Part of the hearing includes whether or not they have enough evidence to bring forward a case.
After seeing the latest renderings, House Speaker Kirk Cox (R-District 66) thinks the Supreme Court will hear them out, “since it’s such a blatant drawing of the lines to hurt senior Republican leadership,” he says.
“If you look at all of the maps, submitted almost by any entity and you know there were probably five or six different ones, none of them targeted any Republicans like that,” House Speaker Cox said.
The high court turned down a request from the Republicans to put on hold the lower court’s ruling. So, whatever map is finalized by the federal court will be used during the election season.
This year, all 100 seats in the House of Delegates are up. According to VPAP’s analysis, Speaker Cox’s district could see a 32 percent shift to the left. Del. Chris Jones (R-District 76) is the chair of the Appropriations Committee. His district could see a 27 percent shift to the left, according to VPAP’s analysis.
Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Richmond Ernest McGowen says since the maps were drawn by a third party, he thinks the high court will likely uphold them.
If the new maps are finalized, McGowen says you’ll want to keep a close eye on the primary for Democrats.
“The Democratic primaries are going to be crazy,” he explained. “The Democrats will have more ability to field good candidates because there are going to be more places in play as opposed to what’s normally the case where Democrats end up challenging one another.”
Speaker Cox says whatever district he’s in, he will still campaign hard for the next election.
“I’ve won for 29 years. I’ll go to the people and certainly, proud to stand on my record and that’s what I’ll do,” he added.
The deadline for all of the sides to send in their objections to the maps is Feb. 1.