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Demonstrators at a rally. Photo: Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

A panel of federal judges on Tuesday handed down a decision against racial gerrymandering in Virginia, ruling that 11 legislative districts drawn by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates during the 2011 redistricting process are unconstitutional and discriminate against African-American voters.

"Overwhelming evidence in this case shows that, contrary to this constitutional mandate, the state has sorted voters into districts based on the color of their skin."
— Judge Barbara Milano Keenan wrote in the majority opinion.

Why it matters: The plaintiffs have argued that African-Americans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, were packed into certain districts to dilute their political influence and make surrounding ones more winnable for Republican candidates. In its 2-1 ruling, the court gave lawmakers until Oct. 30 to redraw the district lines.

The backdrop: Republicans argue that they used the 55% African-American voter threshold in order to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

  • The VRA was meant in part to allow minorities to elect candidates of their choice. However, in recent years Democrats have argued that Republicans are using the act to justify packing too many minorities in districts.
  • Meanwhile, as the Washington Post points out, this argument sometimes creates tension between minority groups and some black incumbent Democrats, who want to ensure that their “majority-minority” districts are safe for reelection. But other Democrats, and liberal advocates, want to disperse minority voters to increase the party’s ability to win more elections.

What they're saying: Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who's leading a national group to undercut Republicans’ sweeping control of the redistricting process in key states, said African-American voters have long "had their voting power diluted and their voices diminished. That will now change."

  • Marc Elias, a Democratic lawyer representing the voters challenging the districts, lauded called the ruling a "big win for voting rights” in the state.

House Speaker Kirk Cox (R) plans to file "a prompt appeal" to the Supreme Court.

Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates, a drop from 66-34 after a hotly contested election last November.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
51 mins ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.