The racial gerrymander of the Virginia House of Delegates is officially dead. He was killed on Monday by a five- to four-year-old Supreme Court decision that appears to pave the way for a possible democratic movement in the Virginia parliament in November.
Although the decision of Monday in House of Delegates of Virginia c. Bethune-Hill kill a gerrymander, this is a more concrete question: who has the ability to defend this gerrymander in federal court? When Virginia voters first lodged a complaint alleging that several districts of the House had been drawn illegally on racial grounds, the state attorney general defended the map. Finally, a federal court found "overwhelming evidence" that the state would have "classified voters in districts according to the color of their skin", violating "the guarantees of the equal protection clause." ". He appointed a special master to redraw 11 districts and adopted his proposals and ordered the House to adopt his new card for the 2019 elections.
Throughout the proceedings, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring defended the unconstitutional quarters of the House. He did so because a Virginia law entrusted the Attorney General, and he alone, with defending the interests of the state in the courts. After the Federal Court quashed the old card, Herring decided that his work was over: he had been defending the gerrymander since 2014, at the beginning of the trial, and did not want to appeal the latest decision to SCOTUS. But the Chamber (and more particularly its Republican President) intervened in the case and made want to appeal. He therefore asked SCOTUS to overthrow the district court and restore his old map.
On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that the House did not have the right to appeal the judgment against its districts to Gerrymander. In concrete terms, this means that the elections of 2019 will be held under the new cards, which is a relief, because Virginia held primary elections under these cards last week. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg cited for the first time the Virginia law giving the Attorney General of the state (not the House) the power to "represent the interests of the state".
New map creates more diverse and competitive districts, leaving Democrats a major role victory.
Ginsburg went on to state that the new cards did not inflict any concrete harm on the House, thus depriving it of the right to appeal the District Court's decision. The plan imposed by the court, she wrote, only changes the composition of the House. But constituencies "change frequently" – at least after each census – and the resulting electoral difficulties "are the responsibility of individual legislators or candidates, not the House as an organ".
The Chamber also claimed to have been harmed by the transfer of "its power of redistribution to the District Court". But under Virginia law, the power of redistribution belongs to the Plenary General Assembly; both the House and the Senate must vote in favor of the adoption of any distribution plan. Because the House "is only a part" of the General Assembly, it is not empowered to appeal the decision that invalidates its districts. In other words, "a single chamber of a bicameral legislature does not have the ability to assert interests belonging to the legislature as a whole".
Judges Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joined Ginsburg's opinion. This blurred ideological result is not too surprising; Standing issues have long fractured the yard along unusual lines. Judge Samuel Alito, dissenting, wrote that the map of the house had "a significant impact on the general work of the body"; a card change has a "powerful effect" on the ability of the room to do its job. This effect, he argued, equates to an injury that should give the House the right to appeal.
The 11 districts invalidated by Monday's decision were clearly manipulated to capture minority communities, trapping a significant number of black voters in some uncompetitive districts. The new map creates more diverse and competitive districts, offering a major victory for Democrats. At the present time, Republicans hold a majority of 51 to 49 years in the House; under the new map more just, democrats seems likely enter the room in November. They are also in favor of taking the Senate – and since the state has a progressive governor (if dishonored), a legislative scan would create a democratic trifecta. This would give Virginia Democrats control of the 2020 redistricting process, preventing Republicans from pulling another round of gerrymanders for another decade.
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