Friday, 23 August, 2019

Supreme Court gives Democrats a win in Virginia racial gerrymandering case

Opinion analysis: Court throws out legislators’ appeal in racial-gerrymandering case SCOTUS rules Virginia’s House of Delegates lacks standing to appeal gerrymandering verdict
Patty Aguilar | 19 June, 2019, 19:45

Virginia will have to adopt a redrawn legislative districting map seen as beneficial to Democrats after the Supreme Court shot down a challenge to a lower court ruling claiming the old map was illegally drawn according to race. The dissenting justices included three conservative justices and one liberal justice. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the 5-4 opinion in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, joined by Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan; the justices agreed that Virginia must use newly drawn district maps ahead of the 2020 elections.

"This is a big win for the health and safety of Virginians and our environment", Virginia state Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement, adding that "we are well within our rights as a state to decide that a risky, potentially unsafe activity like uranium mining is not for us". Indeed, Ginsburg noted, even if Virginia had given the House of Delegates the power to represent the state, the House of Delegates never indicated in the lower court that it was doing so; instead, "the House has purported to represent its own interests" throughout the case. 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. The state has 26 house districts.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday tossed out a lawsuit in Virginia over political boundaries for its explain Legislature. "(But) One House of its bicameral legislature can not alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process.

Republicans will argue that this is all unfair, that courts shouldn't draw district lines and that what they did comported with strict interpretation of the legal requirements of redistricting. In particular, Alito explained, "it is precisely because of the connections between the way districts are drawn, the composition of a legislature, and the things that a legislature does that so much effort is invested in drawing, contesting, and defending districting plans". After that order was handed down, the Virginia Attorney General announced that the state would not be appealing the decision.

Herring declined to defend districts redrawn in 2011 when they were challenged in court.

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"Today's Supreme Court ruling is a victory for democracy and voting rights in our Commonwealth", said Governor Ralph Northam. "The Court's opinion today ends a disappointing saga of orchestrated attacks against the constitutionally-enacted redistricting plan".

The justice heard two such cases in recent months and they could issue decisions this month. This could have been prevented if Attorney General Herring would have defended the law of the Commonwealth and allowed the Court to provide an opinion on the merits of this case. It had mandated that nine states - Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia - as well as a swath of other localities with histories of racial discrimination, receive Department of Justice or federal court "preclearance" to change election laws.

The probable chances of the Republicans having continued majority and great hold on the House of the Delegates have drastically reduced after the verdict. Republicans controlled the House of Delegates at the time, and Democrats the state Senate.

The court drawn plan that stays in place "make it more hard this November for House Republicans to defend their current 51-48 majority", according to an analysis by VPAP.

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