Supreme Court Hands Democrats a Win in Virginia Gerrymandering Case

Clay Curtis
June 20, 2019

With the court dismissing the challenge on standing grounds, the justices didn't rule if the maps constitute an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. But today it dealt with a politically significant case involving the older issue of racial gerrymandering - and did so in a manner that avoided the merits of the controversy.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tossed out a lawsuit in Virginia over political boundaries for its state Legislature.By a 5-4 vote - but not strictly along the usual conservative/liberal divide - the court said Virginia's House of Delegates did not have the legal right to carry on a fight over the map...

The court ruled in an appeal challenging the constitutionality of 11 state legislative districts in Virginia that were drawn in 2011 to maintain a black voting-age population of at least 55 percent.

"The Virginia House of Delegates exists for a objective: to represent and serve the interests of the people of the Commonwealth", Alito wrote in the dissent. Eric Holder, the former USA attorney general under former president Barack Obama, said in a tweet Monday that the ruling is significant for those Virginians forced since 2011 to vote in racially gerrymandered districts that unjustly undermined the privilege to vote.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing in dissent, said the ruling could enable states to target uranium development in various ways, such as preventing counties from providing rubbish collection or fire protection to nuclear facilities.

"Today's ruling from SCOTUS will make victory in November even sweeter", the House GOP caucus tweeted, adding in a statement: "We are confident that voters will opt for the leadership and results we have delivered over chaos, embarrassment, and unchecked Democratic control of state government". The appeal which was filed by the Virginia's Republican controlled House of Delegates resulted in the favor of the Democrats.

Gov. Northam and other Democrats rejoiced over the ruling by the Supreme Court.

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In two other major cases from Maryland and North Carolina, the justices are considering whether courts can curb gerrymandering aimed at purely partisan advantage.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat and the state's top law enforcement official, opposed the appeal and argued that the Republican legislators were not entitled to act on behalf of the state in the case.

The probable chances of the Republicans having continued majority and great hold on the House of the Delegates have drastically reduced after the verdict. "It's a good day for democracy in Virginia", Herring wrote on Twitter. He wrote, "we must assume that the districting plan enacted by the legislature embodies the House's judgment regarding the method of selecting members that best enables it to serve the people of the Commonwealth..."

Republicans will argue that this is all unfair, that courts shouldn't draw district lines and that what they did comported with strict interpretation of the legal requirements of redistricting.

House Speaker Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, whose own district was reconfigured by the decision, said he was "disappointed" with the ruling. The court could deal with it by the end of the term, possibly next week.

In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the Court decided that the House of Delegates does not have the authority to represent Virginia's interests in this matter.

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