In a debate with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) Monday, Senate candidate Ed Gillespie (R-VA) praised a recent court decision for tossing out Virginia’s racially gerrymandered congressional maps — even though the maps were the direct result of a partisan redistricting scheme he himself crafted.
Asked if he would support a bill to restore Voting Rights Act protections gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court last year, Gillespie argued that more protections are unnecessary because the courts are still able to strike down discriminatory laws like Virginia’s.
“We saw here just recently in Virginia that civil rights and the Voting Rights Act is being enforced. We have had our district lines overturned by the courts and it is one of the reasons why the federal court is so important,” Gillespie said, abruptly pivoting to attack Warner on a nepotism scandal.
The problem is, Gillespie was a key architect in Republicans’ gerrymandering effort that led to the Virginia maps in the first place.
Shortly after Gillespie became the chair of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) in 2010, the group launched a major push to redistrict state legislative maps to favor Republicans, called the Redistricting Majority Project, or REDMAP. The RSLC raised more than $30 million to pack state legislatures with Republicans who would approve maps to lock in Republican seats for the next decade.
The now invalidated Virginia maps, which were approved after Republicans took control of the state Senate, are considered one of the most aggressive racial gerrymanders in the nation. The maps consolidated several disparate African American communities into one awkwardly shaped district, effectively siloing black voters so they would not impact other districts. The legislature must now redraw more equitably distributed maps by April.
Despite the setback in Virginia, Gillespie’s national Republican gerrymander has achieved its goal, costing Democrats 1.7 million votes in seven states in the 2012 election.