The redistricting of congressional districts prepared by the Virginia legislature, the Virginia General Assembly, in 2012 was used in the 2014 elections. The redistricting was found unconstitutional and replaced with a court-ordered redistricting on January 16, 2016, before the 2016 elections. Gloria Personhuballah and James Farkas claimed that Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District violated the Voting Rights Actby packing black voters into the district for the political purpose of making surrounding areas better for Republican candidates. Following Supreme Court precedent, the Eastern Virginia Circuit Court found that U.S. Congressional Districts cannot be gerrymandered by race for partisan gain. In this case, the twisting non-contiguous 3rd District hopped the James River in several places and divided multiple locality boundaries, resulting in 89% majorities for black Representative Bobby Scott (D) while surrounding Republican incumbents enjoyed majorities of 16-24%. Subsequent appeals by Republican lawmakers to the Supreme Court were unsuccessful.
Virginia is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country, both on the congressional and state levels, based on lack of compactness and contiguity of its districts. Virginia congressional districts are ranked the 5th worst in the country because counties and cities are broken into multiple pieces to create heavily partisan districts.
Virginia’s congressional districts do not meet the “competitive” mark of a 5% margin of victory, but they average a margin of 35%, comparable to the national district statistical average of all 435 districts. Districts 10 and 11 in northern Virginia and the 2nd in the Hampton Roads ranged between 16-18%. Virginia, like the nation as a whole, has about 73% of its delegation winning by a margin of 20% or more. Districts 4, 7, 5, 1 and 8 ranged from 22-32%, and three outliers had a margin of victory of more than 50%: the 9th at 48%, the 6th at 62%, and the 3rd at 89%.
The Redistricting Coalition of Virginia has recommended reforms, including either an independent commission or a bipartisan commission that is not polarized. Member organizations include the League of Women Voters of Virginia, AARP of Virginia, OneVirginia2021, the Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Organizing Project.
The Independent Bipartisan Advisory Commission on Redistricting for the Commonwealth of Virginia made its report on April 1, 2011. It made recommendations for both state legislative and congressional district redistricting, detailing three options for congressional districts, all improving on the 2001 Congressional map by reducing the number of split jurisdictions, defining three districts in the DC metro northern Virginia area, and increasing compactness in each district. In accordance with the Voting Rights Act, it maintained one majority African-American district without packing to dilute community influence in other districts.
In 2011, the Virginia College and University Redistricting Competition was organized by professors Michael McDonald of George Mason University and Quentin Kidd of Christopher Newport University. About 150 students on sixteen teams from thirteen schools submitted plans for legislative and U.S. Congressional districts. The winning submissions for the congressional redistricting were from the University of Virginia and from the College of William and Mary. The “Division 1” maps conformed to the Governor’s Executive Order, and did not address electoral competition or representational fairness. In addition to the criteria of contiguity, equi-population, the federal Voting Rights Act, and communities of interest in the existing city and county boundaries, “Division 2” maps in the competition did incorporate considerations of electoral competition and representational fairness. Judges for the cash award prizes were Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. They also created districts more compact than the General Assembly’s earlier efforts.
In January 2015, Republican State Senator Jill Holtzman Vogel of Winchester and Democratic State Senator Louise Lucas of Portsmouth sponsored a Senate Joint Resolution to establish additional criteria for the Virginia Redistricting Commission of four identified members of political parties, and three other independent public officials. The criteria began with respecting existing political boundaries, such as cities and towns, counties and magisterial districts, election districts and voting precincts. Districts are to be established on the basis of population, in conformance with federal and state laws and court cases, including those addressing racial fairness. The territory is to be contiguous and compact, without oddly shaped boundaries. The commission is prohibited from using political data or election results to favor either political party or incumbent. It passed with a two-thirds majority of 27 to 12 in the Senate, and was referred to committee in the House of Delegates.
Current House Representatives
See Virginia Congressional Members for slide show of all the members.