WASHINGTON (AP) — Virginians will elect members of the House of Delegates using a map seen as favorable to Democrats, according to ruling Monday by the Supreme Court.
The 5-4 decision was perhaps telegraphed by the fact that the justice previously allowed election planning to go forward with the new map. Virginia held its primary last week, and the November general election will be the last time the state uses this map because legislative districts will need to be redrawn to account for results from the 2020 census.
The political boundaries are important because Republicans currently control the House by a 51-49 margin.
The justices let stand a lower court decision putting in place the new map, saying Republicans in the state House did not have right to appeal to the Supreme Court. The state could have decided to bring the case but did not, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote.
“One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process,” she wrote. The four justices who joined her were Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch, a lineup that included conservatives and liberals. Dissenting were Chief Justice John Roberts and three other justices — Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh.
The case stemmed from a map drawn by Republican lawmakers in 2011, after the last census, and used in the four elections since. Democratic voters sued in 2014, accusing Republicans of packing black voters into certain districts to make surrounding ones whiter and more Republican.
“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.House Speaker Kirk Cox
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.”
A lower court ruled 2-1 last year that the previous, legislative-crafted map improperly factored race into the drawing of 11 of the 100 House districts. After lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement on a redistricting plan, the lower court chose a new map from a series of proposals submitted by a special master.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling is a victory for democracy and voting rights in our Commonwealth,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “When we corrected racially gerrymandered districts earlier this year, we righted a wrong—as I have always said, voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around. I am pleased that this fall, every Virginian, no matter who they are or where they live, will cast their ballots in fair and constitutional districts.”Gov. Ralph Northam
The case is VA House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, 18-281.