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Supreme Court Justices Hear Oral Arguments in Virginia's Redistricting Case

AP Photo / Susan Walsh

Are Republicans in Virginia guilty of racial gerrymandering? That’s a question currently being considered by the highest court in the land.

For justices of the Supreme Court, the key number is 55%. That’s the percentage of black voters House Republicans had in mind for about a dozen districts in the House of Delegates. Democrats say that led to illegally packing black voters into those districts to dilute their influence elsewhere. But Justice Brett Kavanaugh says if they used a lower number they would’ve gotten hammered by the other side.

Read More: What to Expect When the Supreme Court Takes Up Virginia's Redistricting Case

“I thought the map was very thoughtful. It got precleared by the Justice Department," says Republican Speaker Kirk Cox. "Please remember that the Democrats sued all over the nation, and I think part of this was an attempt to overturn legitimate elections.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor says she doesn’t see how Republicans could possibly argue that race wasn’t a predominant factor in their decision making.

Attorney General Mark Herring agrees with that assessment, which is why he says he didn’t file the lawsuit himself.

“Nothing I heard today changes my belief that it’s time for this case to come to an end and that we implement fair and constitutional and representative districts for the next election,” says Herring.

Justices could end up deciding that House Republicans don’t have standing to sue because usually it’s the attorney general who brings cases to the Supreme Court. Then again, if they side with House Republicans that the original map was constitutional that would throw the June primaries into chaos because two dozen seats already have new maps.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.