Herring urges GA to eliminate racial gerrymandering in House districts

mark herringAttorney General Mark Herring issued the following statement on his decision not to appeal or seek a stay of the three-judge panel’s decision in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections finding that 12 House of Delegates districts are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders that “sorted voters into districts based on the color of their skin.”

“A panel of three federal judges has issued a 93 page decision finding ‘overwhelming evidence’ that Virginia’s House of Delegates districts ‘sorted voters into districts based on the color of their skin.’ This finding of a race-based violation of Virginians’ right to vote should be of the utmost concern to each of us, and it demands a remedy as soon as possible. Therefore, having carefully considered the chances of winning an appeal, the considerable time and taxpayer dollars that have already been spent and would continue to be spent on an appeal, and the right of Virginians to vote in districts that are not tainted by racial gerrymandering, I have decided the Commonwealth will not pursue an appeal or stay in this case, and will work to ensure that fair, constitutional lines are drawn as soon as possible.

“The Court has given the General Assembly more than three months to draw a fair map before it steps in and does the job for us. I encourage legislative leaders from both parties and both chambers to come together as soon as possible and to work with Governor Northam to seize this opportunity to create fair, constitutional districts.”

For nearly four years the Office of Attorney General has represented the named defendants in the case, including the Virginia State Board of Elections, and defended the constitutionality of the districts alongside private attorneys hired by the Virginia House of Delegates and the Speaker of the House, who were not sued, but instead chose to join the case as “intervenor-defendants.”

To date, the House of Delegates has spent more than $4 million on attorneys in this case, while the OAG has spent approximately $877,000. Additionally, the plaintiffs who filed the suit have submitted a request for nearly $4 million from the state to cover their costs, which federal law allows them to do as the prevailing party.

Today, the OAG has filed this motion opposing efforts by the intervenor-defendants—the House of Delegates and the Speaker of the House—to further delay the creation of a new, constitutionally-compliant map that does not include racial gerrymandering.

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