The Bulletin—January 29, 2013
The Bulletin compiles news from in and around the US South. We hope these posts will provide space for lively discussion and debate regarding issues of importance to those living in and intellectually engaging with the US South.
- On January 21, 2013, the day of President Barack Obama's second inauguration, the Virginia state Senate rushed a bill to re-draw district maps in the state's 40 senatorial districts while Virginia state Senator and civil rights attorney Henry L. Marsh III was in Washington, D.C. attending the presidential inauguration. Because the state Senate is evenly split 20–20 between Democrats and Republicans, Marsh's absence allowed Republicans to pass the measure with a 20-19 majority. Marsh called the move "shameful." In a statement released on January 22, Republican Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who would have cast the tie-breaking vote if Marsh had been present, held "grave concerns" about the proposed redistricting plan, and stated that he did not support the move. Even though members of the Washington Post Editorial Board condemned the move as "a bald-faced power grab" and Republican Governor Bob McDonnell opined that "I certainly don't think that's a good way to do business," supporters of the redrawn district map contend that it corrects Democratic gerrymandering put in place in 2011 and creates a new majority-minority district in order to "enhance Virginia's compliance with the Voting Rights Act."
- State-level redistricting plans enacted in Alabama, Texas, and Florida since the 2010 US Census are also being contested. Next month, the US Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which challenges "whether Congress’ decision in 2006 to reauthorize Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act under the pre-existing coverage formula of Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act exceeded its authority under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments and thus violated the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the United States Constitution." The case involves the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed suit on behalf of the Alabama State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and four Shelby County voters in order to defend Section 5, which requires jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to have changes to their voting laws "precleared" by the federal government to protect voting access of racial and language minorities. A similar case declaring Section 5 unconstitutional was filed in Texas, where a controversial Republican-authored redistricting plan was denied preclearance in 2011; the case is unlikely to be heard by the high court until the Holder decision later this year. More information on that case can be found at the Texas Redistricting and Election Law Blog. Finally, even though the state legislature, state Supreme Court, and the US Department of Justice all approved Florida's 2012 redistricting plans, Florida's Second Judicial Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis issued an order which denied a motion to dismiss a challenge to those plans on January 17, 2013. The plaintiffs, including the League of Women Voters of Florida, argue that the plans gerrymander districts across the state "in favor of Republican interests." They will get a chance to argue the case in court later this year.