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Virginia Supreme Court Upholds Law Banning Prison Gerrymandering

RICHMOND, VA — Late Wednesday, the Virginia Supreme Court denied a petition challenging the state’s anti-prison gerrymandering law in Adkins v. Virginia Redistricting Commission. This ruling allows the Virginia Redistricting Commission to count those incarcerated at their home address as opposed to where they are currently incarcerated when drawing new district maps.    

"We are proud of the advances being made in Virginia that rightly return power to the voters and to the communities incarcerated persons call home,” said Deb Wake, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “The anti-prison gerrymandering law was passed to help ensure equity for all Virginians, especially Black and brown people who are disproportionately represented in our criminal justice system.”  

Earlier this month, the League of Women Voters of Virginia, in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project, ACLU Virginia, and the National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization, filed an amicus brief supporting the counting of individuals in the state where they are from, and not where they reside in prison. The anti-prison gerrymandering law, which passed in the 2020 general assembly, will protect the voices of Black and brown communities in the ongoing map drawing cycle. 

The Virginia Supreme Court ruling ensures greater equity in the state’s redistricting process,” said Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the US. “It is critical that Virginia Redistricting Commission draw maps that will count individuals at their home address, not the location where they are incarcerated. This will go far in helping to ensure that communities, particularly Black and brown communities who are often over-policed and as a result, are disproportionately incarcerated at higher rates than their white counterparts, remain fairly represented, and that maps drawn are truly reflective of Virginian’s actual population.”   

“The racial disparities in our criminal system, especially when combined with our system of felony disenfranchisement, mean that prison gerrymandering has diluted the political power of Black communities more than any other group,” said Vishal Agraharkar, senior staff attorney of the ACLU of Virginia. “We’re glad that the state legislature banned the practice of prison gerrymandering and that the court denied this challenge to the ban. Ending prison gerrymandering is a step toward correcting the imbalance of voting power in Virginia.” 

"As Executive Director of the National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization, we join our partners the Virginia ACLU and League of Women Voters of Virginia in applauding the Virginia Supreme Court's decision upholding the Virginia law that protects the rights of incarcerated Virginians to remain citizens of the locales where they are from and not where they are incarcerated," said Phil Thompson, Executive Director of the National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization. 

The League of Women Voters continues to push for a fair, transparent, and equitable 2021 redistricting cycle through People Powered Fair MapsTM, a national redistricting reform program. 

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PRESS CONTACT: LaQuita Howard | 202-843-0573 | [email protected]