Judge rules Virginia Beach's voting system is illegal and denies minorities equal access

North Carolina Municipal Elections Candidates
Posted at 5:46 PM, Mar 31, 2021

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A federal judge ruled that Virginia Beach’s election method is illegal and cannot be enforced in the future.

According to court documents, United States District Judge Raymond Jackson rules that the city's at-large voting system "denies Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians equal access to the electoral and political process in violation of section two of the Voting Rights Act."

Virginia Beach residents, Latasha Holloway and Georgia Allen, both African Americans filed a lawsuit on the city's voting system.

Currently, the city's voting system has allowed all voters across the city to elect city council and school board members regardless of where they live.

The judge has ordered that the city should not implement or utilize any practices that dilute the city's minority participation in the election process.

City Councilman John Moss posted the judge's ruling on Facebook and mentioned that the ruling did not include any remedies.

Court documents state, the court will contact counsel as necessary regarding the scheduling of argument regarding remedies.

Gov. Ralph Northam recently signed a bill into law that makes the city have a district system where voters have to live in the corresponding district to vote for a city council or school board member.

The judge ordered that the city pay the legal fees, costs and litigation expenses for the plaintiffs within 30 days from Wednesday.

Thursday night, Virginia NAACP President Dr. Karen Hills Pruden released a statement applauding the judge's decision:

The Virginia Beach NAACP Branch is pleased to learn of the United States District Court’s decision that the At-Large Voting System in the City of Virginia Beach violated the Voting Rights Act. The dismantling of the At-Large Voting System of the City reveals the sometimes-competing agendas of democracy and the rule of law (or systems). There is a presumption that in a democracy, the winner is the elected representative of the majority who they represent. This is not the case when the rule of law (or systems) are crafted to ensure one party has an advantage over another.

This system, in place since 1966, has adversely impacted generations of People of Color. The Virginia Beach City Council is responsible for earmarking capital for infrastructure and services throughout the City. Although we are pleased that the current system will not be used in the future, our attention has already moved forward to see what type of penalty the Court imposes to compensate for the decades of harm inflicted upon the People of Color of this Resort City.

It is the objective of this Branch to ensure all citizens of the community have full representation. It is critical that laws, systems, or practices, which impedes this objective be dismantled. The Virginia Beach NAACP Branch is grateful for the precedence of this ruling and what such a ruling may mean for future People of Color generations of the City.
Dr. Karen Hills Pruden, President of the Virginia Beach NAACP

Read the full court documents here.