The U.S. Supreme Court said Friday that it will review whether Virginia lawmakers improperly packed minority voters into one congressional district at the expense of their influence elsewhere in the state. The court will consider whether earlier court decisions that ruled the districts invalid were correct. A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia has twice invalidated the boundaries of a snake-like district that stretches from Richmond southeast to Norfolk — and ordered lawmakers to redraw the election map. The Supreme Court’s action represents a small victory for Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), whose chambers would draw up the boundaries. Republicans had insisted on letting appeals play out before they abided by the order in case the high court intervened, as it did Friday.
“Today’s order from the Supreme Court validates the Speaker’s position that the defendants should have the opportunity to fully litigate this case before a new congressional map is drawn,” Howell spokesman Matt Moran said in a statement. “In August, the Speaker and Senator Norment asked the Eastern District Court to delay its timeline for this very reason. We will monitor the case as it moves forward.”
[U.S. court moves ahead with plan to redraw Virginia congressional maps]
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) this summer convened a special session to adopt new maps, but an unrelated tussle over a judicial appointment abruptly ended the session before any progress could be made.
McAuliffe asked the federal district court to redraw the maps on its own — a process that has played out while the Supreme Court considered whether to take up the case.
Howell also recorded a win last month when a panel of three federal judges ruled on a similar case that targeted 12 House of Delegates districts. In that case, the court ruled the districts constitutional, and Democrats have filed an appeal of their own, potentially putting a second Virginia redistricting case before the Supreme Court.