(Action Director Deb Wake has put this together for us as a review of how things stand right now. Most of this comes from an informational email that was sent out by OneVirginia2021’s Director, Brian Cannon.)
Some significant developments happened in an important redistricting case late last week and I wanted to make sure you were up to date. It’s always a point of pride for our organization when we hear how well informed our supporters are.
Several weeks ago, you heard the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia struck down 11 House of Delegates districts and gave the General Assembly until October 30th to redraw their boundaries Those changes could affect more than 30 different districts from Richmond to Virginia Beach and all along the south side of the state (see VPAP visual here). Although this isn’t our case, it is significant because it puts the control of the House of Delegates up in the air. That uncertainty can help us bring all parties to the table for reform. However, the House of Delegates has asked SCOTUS to review the district court’s decision and asked the District Court to put a hold on the October 30th deadline. The House intervened in the case, but the Virginia Attorney General had actually taken the lead in defending the old districts. This week, though, Attorney General Herring pulled Virginia out of this lawsuit. He cited the unlikely nature of a successful appeal to SCOTUS and the exorbitant costs the state has already paid in defending gerrymandered maps. (Yes, the taxpayers are paying for the defense of the gerrymandered maps.) What’s especially significant about the AG pulling out of this lawsuit is that he also argues that the state’s withdrawal leaves the House of Delegates without standing to appeal to SCOTUS. This seems to be a novel argument that has a decent chance to prevail. Please read his brief yourself. We’ll update you when there’s a reply brief from the House of Delegates – we are equally interested to hear their response to the AG’s argument.
If the AG prevails on this motion before the District Court, this could signal the beginning of the end of litigation over the 2011 redistricting in Virginia. Yes, it’s 2018 and we’re still litigating maps drawn in 2011!
If our current political redistricting system isn’t corrected, we face endless litigation from both parties in battleground states like Virginia. The current system will continue to produce carved up communities, distorted district shapes, and mis-assigned voters in split precincts.
There’s a better way. These districts belong to Virginians, not to the parties or politicians fighting over them in court. Doing this better is not as hard as the politicians make it out to be. Citizens commissions all over the country are working – producing better districts that reflect communities and inject genuine competition into the system.
To have our chance to vote on reform, Virginia’s legislature must pass a Constitutional amendment in the 2019 session and pass it again in 2020. Then we will have our chance to vote on the amendment in 2020. The two-year amendment process must begin in the upcoming session in January 2019 in order to end gerrymandering in time for the 2021 redistricting.