Mid-April Deadline in Legal Case re House of Delegates Elections
Congressional elections will be held this November for candidates running in the 11 newly drawn Congressional districts. Candidates for the new state Senate and House of Delegate districts are scheduled to run in 2023.
The House of Delegates elections, however, could be moved up to this November if a legal challenge to last year’s House elections is successful. Under the Virginia constitution, the 2021 House elections should have been held in new districts that reapportioned voters based on the 2020 Census. Because the federal government was late in releasing the population count, in November 2021, Virginia had no option but to move forward with elections in the old districts.
Paul Goldman v. Robert Brink is the legal case about whether there should be a fresh election for the Virginia House of Delegates this November using the new district maps. According to a March 21, 2022 article in the Virginia Mercury, “Goldman, a former aide to ex-Gov. Doug Wilder and onetime chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, filed the lawsuit last summer. [June 2021] He contends the state’s delayed redistricting process should require another round of House elections this year on new maps that properly reflect the state’s population shifts. All 100 House seats are up for election again in 2023, but Goldman argues incumbents shouldn’t be allowed to serve full, two-year terms based on old districts with dramatically different population sizes that conflict with the principle that all votes should count equally.” . . . “With nearly a quarter of 2022 gone, the federal courts have not yet issued a ruling on the pivotal question of whether Goldman has standing to bring the case as a Virginia voter and prospective House candidate. Questions of standing typically involve debate over whether a plaintiff can credibly claim to have been harmed by the target of a lawsuit.”
The Goldman case was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th District on March 6, 2022. Arguments were livestreamed (audio only). Courthouse News (March 8) reported “Fourth Circuit hear arguments in case challenging Virginia House of Delegates elections.” The three judges (King, Wynn, and Rushing) sent the case back to the U.S. Eastern District Court of Virginia (Judge David J. Novak) to determine “standing.”
On March 21, Judge Novak heard from the parties (there was no live feed). The Judge gave the two sides until mid-April to file new briefs addressing the standing issue, including whether it should be heard by Novak alone or a three-judge panel also involved in the case.
Several voting-rights groups, including the Virginia League of Women Voters, the Virginia NAACP, and the ACLU of Virginia offered statements of support for holding elections for the Virginia House of Delegates this year. RealRadio804 reported on the groups that are offering support.
The LWV-VA statement of February 23, 2022 urged “Now that we have fair maps, it’s time to hold elections.”
There are also concerns about whether the case could be decided in time for November elections. Courthouse News (March 5) reported that Del. Marcus Simon (McLean) “has been aware of the issue since it was first brought up early last year. If the courts do force 2022 races, he said it would have to happen quickly. Beyond incumbents finding new places to live, there’s signature collection requirements to get on the ballot, primaries, absentee voting deadlines and all the work the state’s Election Board must do before a race could happen this year. ‘You could compress those times frames with a court order, but we’d need to know by June; July 1 would be the absolute latest,’ he hypothesized.”