The Supreme Court rejected the challenge of lower court findings claiming that some of Virginia's legislative districts were racist, said Monday that House Republicans lacked the legal capacity to challenge the ruling.
The decision could give an advantage to the state's democrats. The 140 seats in the Legislative Assembly will be listed on the ballot this fall, and the GOP holds a two-seat majority in both the House (51-49) and the Senate (21-19).
The Democrats hoped that a wave of success during the recent Virginia elections would inspire them to exercise control over the legislature for the first time since 1995.
The party that will control the General Assembly in 2021 will oversee the next state-wide redistribution effort, following next year's census – which could be a benefit. in the next elections.
The primaries took place last week in the new districts.
The case divided the court. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg drafted the majority opinion in Case 5 to 4, stating that Republican leaders in the House could not challenge the court's decision as they did not represent the Commonwealth.
The State Attorney General refused to pursue the case, wrote Ginsburg.
"The state of Virginia prefers to stop only to continue to fight," she wrote. "A chamber of its bicameral parliament alone can not pursue the dispute against the will of its partners in the legislative process."
Judges Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil M. Gorsuch joined her for an unusual alignment.
Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented, saying that he saw no support "for the proposition that the Virginia Act prohibited the House from defending constitutionality of a plan itself. constituency ". Chief Justice John G. Roberts joins him. Jr. and Judges Stephen G. Breyer and Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Because the state did not trace a new map after the jury's decision in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia, the judges had a new map drawn by an outside expert.
He realigns a total of 26 districts of the house while he corrects the 11 under court order. Six Republican delegates would end up in constituencies with a majority of Democratic voters, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Virginia Public Access Project.
Republicans in the House pointed out that the political boundaries they had drawn had been approved by both parties in 2011. They said the plan had been approved by the Justice Department under Barack Obama's presidency.
Mark Herring, Attorney General of the State, asserted that only his office had standing to represent the state in such a case, and he chose not to appeal. The Trump administration has filed a memoir of friends of the court, which essentially subscribes to this position, asserting that the House of Delegates, as an institution, has no inherent interest in the shape of its districts or to those who are elected to represent them.
Unsurprisingly, the Democrats and Republicans in Virginia have had opposite reactions.
"Today 's Supreme Court decision is a victory for democracy and the right to vote in our Commonwealth," Governor Ralph Northam (D) said in a statement. "When we corrected racial gerrymander ridings earlier this year, we corrected an error – as I have always said, voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around. I am happy that this Virginian, whatever his identity or place of residence, will vote this fall in just and constitutional districts. "
Adam Kincaid, executive director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, said the decision would have effects beyond Virginia.
"The wider implications of this operation will affect all states, affecting virtually all areas of politically charged law," he said in a statement. "The Court has sown the veil of opportunity and will reap a flood of partisan nonsense as state attorneys general choose the laws they will defend and ignore on behalf of plaintiffs with whom they are aligned politically or ideologically. "
The Speaker of the House, Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), said he was "disappointed" with the decision and said that she was relying on the issue of the quality of the chamber's position rather than on the merits of what he described in a written statement as a "constitutionally-mandated redistribution". plan."
He criticized the State Attorney General for not wanting to defend the cards, which, he noted, had been adopted in 2011 "with an overwhelming majority".
The Supreme Court has already reviewed the legislative map of 2011 once. He asked a lower court to question whether some of the districts in the Virginia House of Representatives had been equated with racist punishments, grouping black voters in such a way as to leave white candidates able to take them elsewhere. In practice, such a result would benefit Republicans.
The case is House of Delegates of Virginia c. Bethune-Hill.