SCOTUS upholds redrawn Va. House of Delegates district lines

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The following comes by way of Dentons 50 partner Capital Results in Richmond

The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on Monday from Republicans in Virginia’s House of Delegates in a ruling that will uphold redrawn district boundaries that likely will make this fall’s state elections tougher for Republican candidates.

In a 5-4 vote, the high court ruled that the House lacked standing to appeal a lower court’s determination that legislators had racially gerrymandered 11 House districts. The court’s majority wrote that the Virginia attorney general’s office, led by Democrat Mark Herring, has the authority to represent the commonwealth in the matter but had opted not to do so.

The ruling is expected to roil election campaigns currently under way, with Republicans fighting to maintain their slim majorities (51-49 in the House of Delegates, and 21-19 in the state Senate).

For many longtime legislators, Monday’s ruling means that they will be campaigning for re-election in districts that are unfamiliar, and where many of the voters may not know who they are.

The 11 House districts determined to be racially gerrymandered were all occupied by Democrats, who claimed that Republicans had packed black voters into those districts in order to dilute their influence in surrounding districts, providing Republicans with an advantage to retain control.  Three of the affected districts are in the Richmond area; one district is in Petersburg, south of Richmond; and six are in Hampton Roads, which includes the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth.

With the redrawn boundaries now in effect, many Virginia Republicans will find themselves fighting in new territory in order to retain control of the chamber. House Speaker Kirk Cox and Appropriations Committee Chairman Chris Jones, who oversaw the House’s redistricting effort in 2011, are particularly vulnerable in districts that now feature considerably more Democratic-leaning voters.

Democrats, who hold all three executive offices, are looking to build on the electoral gains they posted in 2017 and assume control of one – or both – chambers in Virginia’s bicameral legislature.

The general election is set for Nov. 5, 2019, and the legislature will undertake its decennial redistricting in the 2021 session.