In yet another victory for Democrats, the federal court hearing a lawsuit challenging the state’s congressional lines just ruled that elections this year must go forward under a new map proposed by a court-appointed expert, one that all but guarantees that GOP Rep. Randy Forbes’ 4th District will turn solidly blue. Republicans had asked the court to delay implementation pending an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the judges declined to do so, saying that the defendants had “not made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits” when their appeal is heard.
Prof. Bernard Grofman, the court’s expert, devised two maps, one known as Plan 6 and the other as Plan 16. The court opted for the latter, saying, among other things, that it made the fewest alterations to the existing map while still remedying its critical flaw—namely, that it packed too many black voters into the 3rd District (occupied by Democrat Bobby Scott), thus diminishing black voting strength in surrounding areas. Under the new lines, Scott’s seat remains a Democratic stronghold, but Forbes will find himself in a district where Barack Obama won over 60 percent of the vote. He’ll have virtually no chance of surviving there. The GOP appeal could yet upend things, but it won’t be heard until February or March, and a ruling wouldn’t come until some time later. Given that Virginia’s filing deadline is March 31 and its primary is June 14, the SCOTUS would probably be reluctant to send the entire state back to square one once Virginia’s entire electoral apparatus is set in motion for 2016. (We previously analyzed Plan 16 in this post, and you can find a map here. The court’s full decision is here.)