Two days after Virginia lawmakers blew their court-imposed deadline for redrawing the state’s congressional election maps, federal judges on Thursday began to take matters into their own hands. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia set an ambitious schedule for naming an expert to help judges set new district boundaries and accepting suggested maps from legislators. Last year,the court declared Virginia’s congressional map unconstitutional, saying it packs African American voters into a single district at the expense of their influence elsewhere. The court later ordered the General Assembly to adopt a new map by Sept. 1. Congressional Republicans appealed the decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to say if whether it will hear the case.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) ordered lawmakers into special session on Aug. 17 in hopes of meeting the district court-imposed deadline. But partisan wrangling over a judicial appointment led to an abrupt end of the one-day session before any progress was made on redistricting.
Lawmakers on both sides had already been predicting that the new districts would be drawn by the courts, speculating that any map passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly would likely have been vetoed by McAuliffe.