On November 20, 2017, a resident and voter of Virginia Beach, Virginia filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Virginia Beach challenging the Virginia Beach City Council's at-large method of election as violating federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that that the at-large election scheme has the purpose and effect of denying minority groups their right to vote on the basis of race in violation of the 1st, 14th, and 15th Amendments and that the at-large method results in the dilution of minority groups' voting strength in violation of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act. The plaintiff seeks a judicial declaration that the City's at-large election method is both unlawful and unconstitutional, an injunction prohibiting the defendant from holding future City Council elections using the at-large scheme, and an order requiring the City to institute a new electoral system consisting of wards or single-member districts.

On March 31, 2021, the district court issued its opinion holding that the City's at-large election method violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act because it denied Hispanics, African-Americans, and Asians equal access to the electoral and political process. In doing so, the court also ruled that, at least in the Fourth Circuit, a coalition of distinct minority groups can bring a Section 2 vote dilution claim as a class so long as they can show that the various groups are sufficiently politically cohesive to be treated as a class. The court enjoined any further use of the at-large system and ordered the City to adopt a new system of election that complies with the Voting Rights Act.

The defendants appealed the district court's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on April 29, 2021, but the appeal was put into abeyance pending the district court's resolution of the remedial process and final judgment. On August 9, 2021, the district court conditionally appointed Bernard Grofman to serve as special master to aid the court in devising a remedial redistricting plan, and the special master released his report on October 26, 2021. On December 22, 2021, the court issued an order adopting the special master's revised remedial redistricting plan to remedy the Section 2 violations it found. On December 27, 2021, the defendants appealed the district court's judgment to the Fourth Circuit.

On July 27, the Fourth Circuit issued its opinion vacating the lower court's opinion on the grounds the case was mooted by the Virginia General Assembly's passage of a law that effectively eliminated the at-large election scheme and required single-member district elections be used to elect seven of the ten City Council members. Recognizing that three of the City Council seats could still be elected at-large under the new state law, the Fourth Circuit remanded the case back to the district court to determine whether the plaintiffs could amend their complaint and pursue a Section 2 challenge thereto. On November 15, the district court granted the plaintiffs' motion to stay until the newly elected council members decides on a new method of election.


U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division - No. 2:18-cv-69 [originally No. 3:17-cv-773; transferred from E.D. Va., Richmond Division]

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit - No. 18-1186

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division - No. 2:18-cv-69

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit - No. 21-1533 [together with No. 21-2431]

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia - No. 2:18-cv-69 [on remand]