Virginia Supreme Court upholds legislative districts in redistricting case

courtThe Supreme Court of Virginia issued a decision in Vesilind v. Virginia State Board of Elections today declining to set aside the ruling of a Richmond Circuit Court that the question of whether 11 state legislative districts were drawn in violation of the Virginia Constitution was “fairly debatable” and the districts therefore should be upheld.

The plaintiffs in the case had argued that the legislature failed to give priority to the Virginia Constitution’s requirement that districts be “compact” and instead subordinated compactness to “discretionary” redistricting criteria, such as protecting incumbents.

Gregory Lucyk, a former Senior Assistant Attorney General and now president of the Board of OneVirginia2021, the advocacy organization backing the lawsuit, said they were “disappointed” with the Court’s decision.

“The Courts and the legislature have never defined the standards for compactness to enable the line drawers to apply the constitutional requirement fairly,” Lucyk said. “This lack of clarity in the law has thwarted the purpose of creating compact legislative districts, which is to provide a meaningful restraint on extreme partisan gerrymandering.”

“The Court’s decision shows how important it is that the citizens take action now to amend the Virginia Constitution in order to provide clear and well-defined standards for drawing legislative districts,” said Lucyk, adding that while the court case did not result in the ruling sought by plaintiffs, “it was successful in educating voters about the harm caused by extreme partisan gerrymandering, and it has generated vigorous bipartisan efforts to reform the redistricting process.”

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