SCOTUS rules Virginia’s House of Delegates lacks standing to appeal gerrymandering verdict

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court ruled Monday that Virginia’s House of Delegates — which has a Republican majority — lacks standing in a gerrymandering case that ruled voting districts in the state were drawn on racial motivations, and that remapping districts is constitutional.

The verdict comes after Attorney General Mark Herring (D) said he would not appeal the verdict by the United States District Court of Virginia, which ruled in 2015 that the remapping is constitutional, finding that race was not the controlling factor, but one in a package of other “race-neutral” considerations.

Out of 12 Congressional Districts in Virginia, 11 of them were deemed unconstitutionally drawn by the United States District Court of Virginia in the same 2015 ruling.

“Naturally, we are disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to reject our standing to appeal this case, said Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox. “The Court’s opinion today ends a disappointing saga of orchestrated attacks against the constitutionally-enacted redistricting plan.”

A 2017 ruling by the Supreme Court had upheld that the districts were drawn under a “racial motive.” Republicans had asked for the Supreme court to re-evaluate that part of the ruling as well. 

Before Monday’s decision, the Supreme Court had argued the appeal by Virginia’s House of Delegates since March 2019.

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

“This is a welcome ruling from the Supreme Court-it’s like I’ve always said, voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,” said Northam in a Tweet.

Click here to read the full ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

After the 2010 Census, Virginia lawmakers remapped some districts to maintain a black voting-age population of at least 55 percent. This, the lawmakers said, was merely done in accordance with the Voting Rights Act. But progressive groups pushed back, claiming the redrawn districts unconstitutionally concentrated black voters in select districts, ultimately diluting the political power those voters have in the rest of the state.

In 2013, the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder eliminated a significant provision of the 1964 Voting Rights Act, Section 5. It had mandated that nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — as well as a swath of other localities with histories of racial discrimination, receive Department of Justice or federal court “preclearance” to change election laws.

The ruling ushered in a wave of voting restrictions in many states, from tightened voter ID laws to ending same-day voter registration. Civil rights advocates say the laws impacted voting access in the recent presidential election — which was the first since Section 5 was eliminated.

Six states that were previously covered by Section 5 had more restrictive voting laws in place on Election Day in 2016 than they had when former President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, the Brennan Center for Justice said. The changes had pronounced impact on communities of color: Of the 11 states with the highest black turnouts in the 2008 race, six had adopted new restrictions by Nov. 8, 2016. And of the 12 states where the population of Latinos grew most in the last several years, seven passed more stringent voting laws.

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Below is the full statement from Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Kirk Cox:

“Naturally, we are disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision to reject our standing to appeal this case, which could have wholly been prevented had the Attorney General not once again declined to do his job and defend the law of the Commonwealth.

“The Court’s opinion today ends a disappointing saga of orchestrated attacks against the constitutionally-enacted redistricting plan. A shadowy organization funded by out-of-state interests has cost the taxpayers millions to overturn a legislative map that passed in 2011 that passed with an overwhelming majority.

“Unfortunately, the Court’s decision to not decide the merits of this case leaves a number of unanswered questions just two years before the next redistricting cycle. This could have been prevented if Attorney General Herring would have defended the law of the Commonwealth and allowed the Court to provide an opinion on the merits of this case.

“Regardless of this decision, we are prepared to defend and grow our majority in the House of Delegates. We will run on our record, which includes cutting taxes for the middle-class, freezing college tuition, and standing up for survivors of domestic assault, and the proven results we have delivered over the last two decades. We protected our AAA bond rating through the great recession, set aside over $1.5 billion in reserve funds, raised teacher pay, and made Virginia one of the best states for business. We have recruited a diverse slate of candidates that reflect the communities they seek to serve, including eight women and two African Americans. 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.”

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