The day before today’s court-imposed deadline to redraw Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, there were no signs of reconciliation between Democrats and Republicans in the legislature. That will almost certainly put the map in the hands of a federal court. “There haven’t been any conversations, no,” said Matt Moran, spokesman for House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, on Monday afternoon — two weeks after the state Senate adjourned a special legislative session hours after it began. “The House of Delegates acted in good faith to begin the redistricting process. Senate Democrats unilaterally ended that process in the middle of a public hearing, defying a federal court ruling and unilaterally shutting down the possibility of a legislative remedy. The ball is squarely in their court,” Moran said.
Last week, with the deadline approaching, Judge Albert Diaz of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sent a letter to both sides in the case, ordering a telephone conference call with counsel “to discuss the next steps … in the event that the Virginia General Assembly chooses not to exercise its primary jurisdiction to prepare a remedial redistricting plan.”
Henry L. Chambers, Jr., a professor of constitutional law at the University of Richmond School of Law, said that the court might draw new district lines — or bounce the ball back to the legislature, allowing lawmakers more time to do the job. “In 2012, the districts were drawn, pre-cleared and they were used in late 2012. It’s not impossible to draw districts in early 2016 that can be used later next year,” Chambers said. “But it wouldn’t surprise me if they said they are going to fix it now.”