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by Brandon Jarvis

The League of Women Voters of Virginia, in partnership with American Civil Liberties Union Voting Rights Project (ACLU), ACLU Virginia, and the National Black Nonpartisan Redistricting Organization, filed an amicus brief in Adkins v. Virginia Redistricting Commission, supporting counting incarcerated individuals where they are from and not where they are incarcerated. 

The new law is facing a lawsuit from a list of several individuals that includes state Senator Travis Hackworth R-Tazewell. The goal of the lawsuit is to stop the process of using incarcerated individuals’ last known address for redistricting.

Previous redistricting processes have counted the prison address for individuals to draw legislative lines, but the General Assembly passed legislation last year to change that.

The lawsuit states that the decision to count prisoners at their home address was made by legislators and not a constitutional amendment process or referendum vote. 

Experts have called the lawsuit a “longshot.”  

LWV-Virginia filed the brief to provide their perspective and voice their support of the new law.

“The anti-prison gerrymandering law should be used by the redistricting commission and does not violate Virginia’s constitution,” said Deb Wake, President of the LWV of Virginia. “Incarcerated people should be counted at their last home address, not in the communities where they are incarcerated. Otherwise, the political power of their communities is limited.”  

The Redistricting Commission that was approved by a state referendum in 2020 is currently working through the new census data and is expected to complete the map drawing for presentation to the General Assembly in mid-October, just a few weeks before all 100 House seats are up for election. 

The Virginia Public Access Project has a graphic that displays which localities stand to lose or gain in population after incarcerated individuals are redistricted to their home addresses. 

Advocates for the law say that this law will stop the dilution of Black and brown communities. “Incarcerated people should be counted where they have voting power,” said Virginia Kase Solomón, CEO of the League of Women Voters of the US. “Black and brown individuals are disproportionately represented in our prisons — not counting them in their communities dilutes the overall voting power of those incarcerated in a facility outside of their home state. Virginia’s redistricting commission must be allowed to exercise the anti-prison gerrymandering law when drawing Virginia’s maps.” 

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