Virginia Election to Proceed With Redrawn District
WASHINGTON – Voters in Virginia will elect members of the state’s House of Delegates in districts drawn on a map considered to be favorable to Democrats, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The 5-4 ruling comes in a case brought by black voters in Virginia who accused Republicans of packing them into certain districts when they redrew the district map after the last census to ensure that other districts were whiter and more Republican.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, called the ruling a “big win for democracy in Virginia.”
“It’s unfortunate that House Republicans wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and months of litigation in a futile effort to protect racially gerrymandered districts, but the good news is that this fall’s elections will take place in constitutionally drawn districts,” he said in a statement.
The voters challenged a total of 11 districts for the state’s House of Delegates, which were drawn after the 2010 census, and each of which had a population that was at least 55 percent black.
The Supreme Court has long maintained that race can’t be the leading factor in the creation of state districts. The justices first took on the case in 2015, but sent it back down to a lower court for reconsideration.
The lower court ruled 2-1 last year that the previous, legislative-crafted map improperly factored race into the drawing of 11 of the 100 House districts. After lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement on a redistricting plan, the lower court chose a new map from a series of proposals submitted by a special master.
The justices still have two high-profile gerrymandering cases, from Maryland and North Carolina, to decide before the end of the term, both dealing with legislative districts drawn for purely partisan reasons.
Although racial discrimination was at the heart of the case decided Monday, the political implications are undeniable and the ruling could foreshadow the court’s thinking in the partisan gerrymander cases.
In this case, the justices let stand a lower court decision putting a new map in place, holding that state House Republicans did not have standing to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.
“In short, Virginia would rather stop than fight on. One house of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
She was joined in the majority by justices Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas.
As a result of the map struck down by Monday’s ruling Republicans currently control the Virginia House of Delegates by a 51-49 margin.
In a written statement, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, chairman of the non-profit National Redistricting Foundation, said “Today’s ruling from the Supreme Court is an important victory for African Americans in Virginia who have been forced since 2011 to vote in racially gerrymandered districts that unfairly diluted their voting power.
“With a new, fair map in place, all Virginians will now – finally – have the opportunity this fall to elect a House of Delegates that actually represents the will of the people,” Holder said.
The new map was used in Virginia’s primary election last week and it will be used just one more time, in this November’s general election. The Legislative districts will be redrawn again following the 2020 census.
The case is VA House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, 18-281.
In The News
WASHINGTON - Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., told the Federalist Society in a keynote address Thursday night the coronavirus pandemic has led to "previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty." "I am not diminishing the severity of the virus's threat to public health," Alito continued in a... Read More
WASHINGTON -- So much for the new conservative majority of the Supreme Court dismantling the Affordable Care Act. On Tuesday, during oral arguments for California v. Texas, one of this term's most anticipated cases, two members of that majority, suggested they're not inclined to strike down... Read More
WASHINGTON — This morning, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on a legal challenge seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act. This third major challenge to the ACA heard by the Supreme Court, Texas v. California seeks to decide whether Congress, by eliminating the penalty... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett hears oral argument Tuesday in a case that threatens to wipe out the 2010 health care law, likely the term's most consequential case, under a political spotlight that rarely shines brighter on justices who would rather stay out of it.... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday set aside an appeals court ruling by a panel of conservative judges that held an injured police officer could sue and win damages from the leader of a Black Lives Matter protest rally. The case had raised alarms among civil libertarians, who said it... Read More
WASHINGTON — Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined her new colleagues on the Supreme Court Monday, participating in oral arguments for the first time. The cases on the docket Monday were no head-turners. The first, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service v. Sierra Club Inc., concerned public disclosure... Read More