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SCOTUS Blocks House GOP Appeal In Virginia Racial Gerrymandering Case

The U.S. Supreme Court Building
The U.S. Supreme Court Building Whittney Evans/WCVE News

Virginia Democrats are celebrating Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court  decision to dismiss a House Republican challenge to findings of racial gerrymandering in some of Virginia’s legislative districts. The state can now move forward with a redistricting map that’s seen as favorable to Democrats who are trying to take control of the House of Delegates in the November election.

A federal court approved the new map in January to fix districts a lower court ruled were racially gerrymandered. House GOP leaders appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, but justices said in an opinion published Monday that House Republicans lack standing to represent the state’s interests in the case.

“One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process,” wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Del. Charniele Herring, chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said because of racial gerrymandering, the makeup of Virginia’s General Assembly isn’t a true representation of Virginia communities.

“Therefore policy isn’t necessarily as strong as it could be.” Herring said. “And I think with a more diverse legislature, where communities of color are able to pick their candidate of choice, we’ll have a stronger democracy.”

Herring voted to approve the original map, which the General Assembly passed in 2011 by a vote of 63-7. 

A three-judge panel ruled last summer that 11 of the House districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring declined to appeal that decision or defend the GOP-drawn map.

“It’s unfortunate that House Republicans wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and months of litigation in a futile effort to protect racially gerrymandered districts,” Herring said in a statement.

Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox said he’s disappointed in the opinion.

“The Court’s opinion today ends a disappointing saga of orchestrated attacks against the constitutionally-enacted redistricting plan,” Cox said. “A shadowy organization funded by out-of-state interests has cost the taxpayers millions to overturn a legislative map that passed in 2011 with an overwhelming majority."

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Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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