A federal court on Monday gave the Virginia General Assembly more time to redraw the state’s congressional map, which the panel ruled unconstitutional for diluting the influence of African American voters. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia moved the April 1 deadline to either Sept. 1 or 60 days after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a pending appeal from congressional Republicans, whichever comes first. The ruling favors the approach taken by House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), who said Friday that he would not redraw the lines until the appeal was decided. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) disagreed and said last week that “running out the clock” unnecessarily confuses what, he said, should be a straightforward process. “The governor remains ready to work with the General Assembly to pass a fair, nonpartisan congressional map that complies with the court’s standing ruling on this issue,” McAuliffe’s spokesman, Brian Coy, said Monday.
In this 2011 file photo, Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax), chairman of the Senate Privileges and Elections committee, addresses the Virginia Senate as they consider the congressional redistricting plan that passed the committee at the State Capitol in Richmond, Va., Thursday, June 9, 2011. (Bob Brown/AP Photo/Richmond Times-Dispatch)
Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) had favored slightly extending the April 1 deadline to April 15 to prevent state taxpayers from incurring the $41,000-per-day cost of bringing lawmakers back to Richmond to deliberate on new maps.
The judges were unmoved by that argument: “Even if a special session will be required, that expense is small when measured against the likely expense of going forward with the case in its current posture, because the parties will incur legal fees and litigation costs and expenses.”