City of Virginia Beach to Appeal Ruling in Voting Rights Case
Statement from Mayor Robert M. "Bobby" Dyer:
Despite our best efforts, the parties in the Holloway vs. City of Virginia Beach case have been unable to achieve a mutually agreeable settlement. The City is therefore proceeding with an appeal of the district court's decision, which will be filed with the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in June.
The essence of this case focused on the plaintiffs' contention that the City's election system for City Council members violates Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits a system of election that prevents a minority group from electing a candidate of choice. Specifically, the plaintiffs contend that the City's current system dilutes the voting strength of a coalition of Black, Hispanic and Asian minority groups. They asked the court to consider, among other things, an election system with 10 single member districts where only the voters residing in each district would elect the Council member from that district. Only the mayor would continue to be elected at large.
The City's position is that the plaintiffs' case fails as a matter of law and fact, and that plaintiffs cannot show, under existing data, that any single minority group is sufficiently large or compact to constitute a majority within any single voting district. The City also contends that plaintiffs cannot overcome this defect in their case by combining Black voters with Asian and Hispanic voters because the law does not authorize combining minority groups to state a claim under Section 2 and because all three minorities in Virginia Beach do not vote cohesively as one political group.
The court has prohibited the City from using the historical election system in any future elections and has asked the parties to propose remedies no later than July 1, 2021, after which time the court will decide what the future election system will be. While the district court (or an appellate court) will ultimately decide what system may be used for future City Council elections, the City will be participating actively in the remedy phase of the case. As part of the City's participation in the remedial phase, the City Council would like to hear from residents about which election systems and principles they prefer and why. We have scheduled a public briefing on the status of the case for June 1 at 6 p.m. and invite residents to share their feedback during one of two public hearings scheduled for June 8 and June 15. All meetings will be held in Suite 5 of the Virginia Beach Convention Center, 1000 19th Street, and can be watched online at VBgov.com or on VBTV. Directions on how to sign up to speak in person or virtually will be provided when the agendas for the meetings are published on VBgov.com.
For more information and to review case materials, visit vbgov.com/electionchanges.
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