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Attorney General supports Virginia Beach's appeal in voting rights lawsuit

Photo by Jonah Grinkewitz. More than 3 million Virginians went to the polls.
Photo by Jonah Grinkewitz. More than 3 million Virginians went to the polls.

Virginia Attorney General and former Virginia Beach delegate Jason Miyares filed a brief supporting the city’s appeal of the federal ruling forcing it to remove its at-large system of voting districts.

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Jackson ruled in March 2021 Virginia Beach’s method of election was illegal, because it denied “Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians equal access to the electoral and political process,”violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

City officials appealed the court’s ruling, arguing the plaintiffs never showed that a single minority group of voters was “sufficiently large or compact” to become a majority within a district – so the plaintiffs couldn’t prove that they had their political power diluted. 

The city also argued that plaintiffs couldn’t combine the numbers of Black, Latino and Asian American voters for the purposes of the suit. Miyares’s brief echoed the city’s case.

“One of Virginia’s strengths is its diversity,” Miyares wrote in a public statement. “Assuming that all Hispanic, Asian and Black voters in Virginia Beach breathe, think and live their lives the same way simply because they are all members of racial minority groups is a backwards way of thinking.”

Last week, Virginia Beach’s city council voted 6-4 to continue their suit, which could cost the city $3.6 million in plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. The plaintiff’s offered to settle the case for $1.6 million if the city ended its appeal.

While the case progresses, the political process continues as well.

The Virginia General Assembly voted to end the at-large system for localities and school boards in the state. Virginia Beach has adopted the new system, without at-large seats, for elections this Fall.

In his brief, Miyares argued no one should assume they know what minority groups want when they go to the polls.

“The Attorney General was elected as Virginia Beach’s first Cuban-American member of the House of Delegates – and is now the first the Hispanic statewide officeholder,”Miyares wrote in his brief, “notwithstanding his affiliation with the political party which, according to the plaintiffs, the coalition comprising Hispanic voters does not support.”

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