Group sues over state House and Senate districts

The Associated Press//September 14, 2015

Group sues over state House and Senate districts

The Associated Press//September 14, 2015

(AP) A third lawsuit was filed on Monday challenging the outcome of Virginia’s 2011 redistricting, claiming lawmakers in both parties are unfairly benefiting from gerrymandered districts.

A nonprofit group, OneVirginia2021, backed a lawsuit filed on behalf of several Virginians in Richmond Circuit Court asking that 11 House and Senate districts be redrawn because they are not compact, which state law requires. The districts are currently held by both Republicans and Democrats.

Brian Cannon, executive director of the group, said lawmakers put protecting incumbents ahead of drawing compact districts in 2011, which he said led to bizarrely shaped districts that make no practical sense. Cannon said the goal of the lawsuit is to create an even playing field for future elections.

“If someone can only win in a gerrymandered district then that’s not really a fair fight and a fair win,” Cannon said.

Cannon said his group is supported by Democrats, Republicans and independents and that major fundraising efforts are being led by Alan Wurtzel, the former chief executive of Circuit City; Jim Ukrop of the prominent Richmond supermarket family; and Judy Ford Wason, a former vice president for university advancement at Christopher Newport University.

Wyatt Durrette, a former GOP candidate for governor, is the lead attorney on the lawsuit for OneVirginia2021.

Redistricting has been a hot-button topic in Virginia, a swing state where Democrats have been successful in statewide elections while Republicans have solid control of both the state House and the state’s congressional delegation.

The lawsuit filed Monday is separate from two federal lawsuits filed by Democrats that allege the General Assembly illegally packed black voters into a congressional district and 12 state House districts when it redrew boundaries in 2011.

A federal panel of judges ordered the General Assembly to come up with a new congressional map by Sept. 1. But lawmakers punted and the judges have been moving toward drawing a new map themselves.

State Republicans have defended the current boundaries as legal and appropriate. Matthew Moran, spokesman for House Speaker William J. Howell, called OneVirginia2021’s lawsuit “another political lawsuit that will cost taxpayers.”

“Contiguity and compactness were one of the top priorities used in developing the current House districts,” Moran said.

— ALAN SUDERMAN, Associated Press


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