Virginia Gerrymander Case Sent Back to District Court by Supreme Court


In Bethune-Hill v Virginia Board of Elections, the issues was brought up by 12 plaintiffs who each resisted in of the twelve challenged districts in Virginia. Their claim was that the district plan set by Virginia and their districting plan, they constituted racial gerrymanders that violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This followed from the 2010 census, where the Virginia State Legislature drew new lines for 12 state legislative districts, with the aim of having in each district a black voting-age population of at least 55%.  

At District Court it was stated that the plaintiffs did not establish that the creation of the 11 of the 12 challenged district was predominantly based on race. Only the creation of one district was influenced by race but the General Assembly had a state interest in doing so and it was narrowly tailored to serve a specific interest. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the challengers argued that the District Court employed an incorrect legal standard for the racial predominance. The SCOTUS held that the District Court applied the wrong legal standard and ordered that the lower court to reexamine 11 of those districts. The challengers asked the Supreme Court to apply the correct test but they declined and emphasized that they are “the court of final review and not first view”, and therefore the District Court should be the one that makes the determination and based on the test see if face as the predominant factor in drawing the district lines is constitutional. 

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.