U.S. Supreme Court upholds impartial Virginia House districts
The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the appeal of the Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates challenging a new state electoral map.
The 5-4 vote upholds the map drawn by an impartial, court-appointed Special Major after federal courts found a 2011 House of Delegates’ map had been racially gerrymandered.
In June 2018, a three-judge panel found that 11 House of Delegates districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. A month later, Attorney General Mark Herring announced that the Commonwealth of Virginia would not appeal the decision, citing the seriousness of the constitutional violation, the low likelihood of success, and the considerable time and more than $4.5 million in taxpayer money spent by House Republicans to defend racially gerrymandered districts.
The decision handed down today by the Supreme Court effectively ruled that the House of Delegates lacked standing in the case, either to represent the state’s interests or in its own right.
Herring 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. I’m really proud of the work my team and I did to protect the new, constitutional districts, and to protect the voting rights of all Virginians,” Herring said.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for democracy and voting rights in our Commonwealth,” Gov. Ralph Northam said. “When we corrected racially gerrymandered districts earlier this year, we righted a wrong — as I have always said, voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around. I am pleased that this fall, every Virginian, no matter who they are or where they live, will cast their ballots in fair and constitutional districts.”
In a joint statement, House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn and House Democratic Caucus Chair Charniele Herring called the decision “a major win for voting rights and civil rights in our Commonwealth.”
“In the past four elections for the Virginia House of Delegates, hundreds of thousands of Virginians have voted in racially gerrymandered districts that violate the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. There is nothing more fundamental to our democracy than the right to vote and have a voice in our government so that it is truly representative of the people. The ‘packing’ of African American voters in the 2011 maps has diluted that fundamental right for so many Virginians of color,” Filler-Corn and Herring said.
“Constitutional maps are more important than the status quo, and they are more important than one party’s entrenched political power. House Republicans have spent millions of taxpayer dollars defending racial gerrymandering in a protracted legal battle – a battle in which they lacked legal standing. Finally, Virginians in the affected districts have the assurance that they will vote in constitutional districts in this year’s election.
“This SCOTUS decision is a major win for voting rights and civil rights in our Commonwealth.”
Story by Chris Graham