Continuing its fight for fair election districts in Virginia, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit sponsored by non-partisan group OneVirginia2021 have filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Virginia to require the General Assembly to obey the anti-gerrymandering mandate of the Virginia Constitution.
OneVirginia2021’s lawsuit asks the court to compel the General Assembly to give priority to Constitutional requirements – especially compactness – over such political criteria as voters’ previous partisan preferences or whether new district boundaries will give the incumbent a custom-cut advantage. Article II, Section 6 of the Virginia Constitution commands: “Every election district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory.”
Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant ruled on March 31 that the 11 districts challenged in the OneVirginia2021 lawsuit were constitutional. In his ruling, however, Judge Marchant supported the use of newly developed measurements to determine whether priority was accorded the constitutional mandate of compactness in drawing election districts, and rejected the House and Senate’s contention that maps drawn before these compactness measurements were developed set the bar for what is constitutional.
“With the facts of the case established by the trial court, we hope the Supreme Court of Virginia will agree with us that no reasonable and objective person would believe the House and Senate gave proper deference to the Constitutional requirement of compactness, over the discretionary goals of protecting incumbents or giving political advantage to one party or another,” said Brian Cannon, Executive Director of OneVirginia2021. “There’s simply no evidence that they gave due priority to the Virginia Constitution.”
The OneVirginia2021 sponsored lawsuit was filed in September 2015 and heard in the trial court in March 2017. In keeping with OneVirginia2021’s non-partisan approach, the plaintiffs are voters from across the political spectrum and across the state. The lawsuit is funded entirely by private citizens, while the House and Senate defense of their gerrymandered maps is funded by taxpayer dollars.