Briefs were filed today in the Supreme Court of Virginia supporting the appeal in Vesilind v. Virginia State Board of Elections, a case backed by OneVirginia2021, a bipartisan organization seeking to end the practice of gerrymandering legislative districts in the Commonwealth. The case, which challenges the General Assembly’s 2011 drawing of 11 House and Senate legislative districts, states the current boundaries violate the Virginia constitution’s requirement that districts be composed of territory that is “compact.”
The Circuit Court of the City of Richmond heard evidence in a three-day trial in March of this year, and concluded that while the challengers had met their burden of showing that the legislature did not give priority to the constitutional requirement of compactness, the court nevertheless was constrained to rule for the legislature because the issue was “fairly debatable.”
The redistricting challengers, in their brief to the Supreme Court, disagree with the circuit court’s decision. They argue that the General Assembly did not give priority to the constitution, but instead “subordinated” compactness to “discretionary” districting criteria, such as giving partisan advantage to sitting incumbents, while giving no more than “lip service” and conclusory consideration to the Virginia Constitution.