Virginia supreme court rejects redistricting challenge

September 22, 2021 GMT

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Supreme Court of Virginia has rejected a legal challenge to a state law that changes how prison inmates are counted for purposes of redistricting.

The challenge came from individuals, including southwest Virginia state Sen. Travis Hackworth, who argued that inmates should be counted as residents of the prisons where they are housed.

A state law enacted last year changed how prisoners are counted; they are now considered residents of their last address before incarceration.

The change reduces the population of rural areas like southwest Virginia as Virginia’s new bipartisan redistricting commission is in the midst of drawing new boundary lines for General Assembly and congressional districts to reflect the results of the 2020 census.

The petition sought a state Supreme Court order prohibiting the redistricting commission from using the new law to inform its map drawing. But the court dismissed the petition in an order issued Wednesday.

Virginia is one of 11 states that has changed its rules to count at least some inmates as residents of their last known address for the 2020 redistricting cycle, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.