Supreme Court rules new Congressional Districts to stay

Published 10:45 am Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned down the bid to block the new Virginia Congressional Map. The districts most concerned and being affected by these redrawn lines are the 3rd and 4th Districts.

The current 3rd District, under Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) includes the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg and Portsmouth as well as the cities of Charles City and Surry and parts of Henrico and Prince George.

The current 4th District under Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-VA) includes the cities of Franklin, Suffolk, Chesapeake and Emporia as well as the counties of Isle of Wight, Southampton and Sussex.

In the new proposed redrawn map, both Scott and Forbes’ districts would see significant changes in the localities of whom they represent, as the City of Franklin and Isle of Wight County are among several who would find themselves in a new district. Both Franklin and Isle of Wight would move from the 4th to the 3rd District, separating them from Southampton County, which would remain in the 4th.

The current race demographics for the 4th District include 62 percent Caucasian and 32 percent African-American, and would shift to 51 percent Caucasian and 42 percent African-American.

Monday’s order ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court said, “The application for stay presented to the Chief Justice and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

However, lawyers for the Republicans are appealing the ruling, and the Supreme Court has set arguments for the appeal on Monday, March 21.

At this time, there have been no comments from either Scott or Forbes.

With elections coming this year, Forbes must decide whether or not he will run for re-election in his current district that will cease to be majority Republican. As an alernative, he could run for an open-seat in the 2nd District or even for a state office.

Valerie Butler, president of the Isle of Wight County NAACP, was asked for her view on the SCOTUS’ refusal to hear appeals.

“I don’t know if it really matters yet, but based on the information I’ve gone back to research and the reasoning behind it, I think it’s a good thing,” Butler said. “I’ve heard the pros and cons and the reason behind it.

The gerrymandering of the 3rd District was set up to have a majority of African-Americans to guarantee a position in the House. The fact that they already have Bobby Scott to solidify — that reasoning was wrong.”

She continued, “I live in Smithfield here in Isle of Wight. We’ve always been a bedroom community. People live in one area and work in another. They have a vested interested in several localities.”

Further, “I think the right thing to do is to make up the district based on what the consensus reports look like. It’ll be more compact and less complicated.”

Butler acknowledged there’d been some confusion at the start, but people would get accustomed to the change. This would be helped along by the local chapter.

“Our job in the NAACP is to educate people,” she said.

To presume that African-Americans or other minorities will automatically vote Democratic is a mistake, Butler added.

“I really think that’s the wrong way to look at it. I think people are more educated now,” Butler said, adding that she looks for the best candidate when it comes to time to vote.

Still, the situation ought to resolved soon for everyone’s sake.

“The longer the courts take, it will be that much more confusing for the voters,” she said.