Staff Report
alexandrianews.org

The U.S. Supreme Court today issued an order that the parties further brief the question of “standing” in the Virginia redistricting case, Virginia House Of Delegates, et al. v. Golden Bethune-Hill, et al. The Court has delayed any Hearing on the Merits of the case until briefs from plaintiffs and defendants are received.

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court order dealt strictly with standing:

“Further consideration of the question of jurisdiction is postponed to the hearing of the case on the merits. In addition to the questions presented by the jurisdictional statement, the parties are directed to fully brief the following question: Whether appellants have standing to bring this appeal.”

In 2011, the Virginia General Assembly drew a House of Delegates redistricting map that was almost immediately taken to court. After making its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the case was remanded earlier this year by the U.S. Supreme Court to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. In June, a three-member panel of federal judges found that the Virginia General Assembly violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in the gerrymandering of 11 House of Delegates Districts in 2011. By a vote of 2-1, the panel of federal district court and appellate judges ordered the General Assembly to develop a remediation plan for these districts by Oct. 30, 2018.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam informed the General Assembly in early October that:  “Since the federal court’s June 26th finding that 11 Virginia House of Delegates Districts were unconstitutional, I have closely monitored the legislature’s progress to produce a remedy. I understand and appreciate the effort devoted to the maps drafted in House Bills 7001, 7002, and 7003; however, the nature of the Aug. 30th and Sept. 27th proceedings in the House Privileges and Elections Committee reinforced my belief that this partisan process should not continue and that the federal court is best positioned to construct a remedial districting plan. Given this conviction, I must unequivocally state that I will veto House Bill 7003 should it reach my desk.

“The federal court has contemplated a process by which it, through a nonpartisan special master, will construct a remedial districting plan should legislative efforts fail, and I believe that is the best course of action before us. Virginians deserve fair and constitutional lines in place in time for June 2019 primaries, without further delay,” Northam said.

After Northam’s declaration, Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox canceled a General Assembly special session scheduled for Oct. 21, during which the General Assembly was scheduled to vote on the redistricting plan Northam had threatened to veto. Per the Court’s order, as the General Assembly failed to pass its own redistricting plan by Oct. 30, the Special Master is at work redrawing the 11 House Districts in question.

House Democratic Leader David Toscano and Caucus Chair Charniele Herring issued the following statement regarding today’s U.S. Supreme Court's order:

"The Supreme Court's order today is not unexpected. We are glad that the court has decided to address concerns over whether House Republicans have standing to appeal the District Court's decision. House Republicans have spent millions of dollars in taxpayers' money defending their unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered maps, even while having a weak claim to qualify as 'defendant-intervenors' in the case. We continue to be disappointed in this waste of taxpayer money by House Republicans. Should the court rule House Republicans do not have standing, it would end any further delays in implementing new, constitutional maps for Virginia's 2019 elections. We hope that the Supreme Court, which has previously ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, will once again act in the interest of Virginia voters' constitutional rights. 

"With no stay issued, there is no reason for the lower court to delay the Special Master's drawing of new maps, allowing redistricting to move forward. Virginians deserve constitutional districts that do not dilute their voting power through racial gerrymandering. Our number one priority for the people of the Commonwealth is having constitutional maps in place in time for the next election."