On November 4, 2011, the County Commission of Jefferson County, West Virginia, and several county residents filed a federal lawsuit against West Virginia's Secretary of State, their Governor, and the leaders of the West Virginia Legislature, challenging the Legislature's enacted congressional redistricting plan (S.B. 1008) as unconstitutional under the federal and state constitutions due to it having impermissible population variances. When the West Virginia Legislature redrew its congressional districts following the 2010 decennial census, the West Virginia Senate's redistricting task force drafted a plan with a relative overall population deviation of 0.0% (1 person) amongst the state's three congressional districts. The Legislature considered four different proposed amendments to S.B. 1008 and ultimately adopted an amended version of the plan that had a relative overall deviation of 0.79% (4,871 people), which was the second highest population variance out of the four proposed amendments to S.B. 1008. The plaintiffs alleged that S.B. 1008's legislative record contained no legitimate objective to justify why the plan with a higher population variance was selected. Citing these variances, the plaintiffs claimed that the plan overpopulated the state's Second Congressional District, thereby diluting the votes of residents therein in violation of Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution and discriminating against those voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. They further alleged that the plan's population variances and configuration of the Second Congressional District violated the equal population and compactness requirements under Article I, Section 4 of the West Virginia Constitution. The plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment that the enacted congressional plan violated the federal and state constitutions, injunctive relief barring the defendants from using the plan in any future elections, and a court order adopting a more compact and equally populous congressional plan be enacted. On December 15, 2011, the case was transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

On January 3, 2012, the district court held that West Virginia's enacted congressional plan violated the equal population requirements of Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, finding that the state failed to make a good faith effort to draw districts of equal populations. The court rejected the state's argument that the deviations were justified as being necessary in order to achieve their redistricting policy objectives of respecting county boundaries, preserving the cores of prior districts, and avoiding pairing incumbents, citing the existence of several alternative proposals which achieved these policy goals with smaller deviations and the state's failure to show the "precise portion" of each deviation that was attributable to each policy. The court also rejected the state's comparison of this plan's deviation to a comparable one in a 1970's plan which was sustained by a federal court in West Virginia, stating that modern day redistricting technology has made achieving a zero-variance plan much easier and much more practicable than in the past, as evidenced by the fifteen states which had enacted such plans in the 2010 cycle. Basing its ruling entirely on the U.S. Constitution, the court declined to address the plaintiffs claims brought under the West Virginia Constitution. Finding the enacted plan to be unconstitutional, the court enjoined it from being used in future elections and ordered the state to enact a new, properly apportioned plan. The defendants appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court granted a stay on the district court's judgment pending the appeal.

On September 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a per curiam opinion reversing the district court's judgment and upholding the state's enacted congressional plan as constitutional. First, the Court ruled that the district court erred in concluding that improved redistricting technology had converted a historically "minor" deviation into a "major" one today since the degree of harm resulting from such malapportionment remained the same. Next, the Court explained that the redistricting policies put forth by West Virginia were valid and sufficient to sustain the enacted plan because none of the alternative proposals came close to achieving all of the State's policy goals while also achieving a lower variance. It also clarified that no precedent requires a State to produce the precise portion of each deviation attributable to each redistricting policy. In light of its ruling, the Court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings on the state constitutional claims.

On January 25, 2013, the district court, on remand, ordered the case be dismissed on the grounds that West Virginia courts should have the first opportunity to address the remaining "novel" issues involving the West Virginia Constitution.


U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia - No. 3:11-cv-0096

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia - No. 2:11-cv-0989

U.S. Supreme Court - No. 11A674 (Stay) & 11-1184 (Merits)