Supreme Court Gives Virginia Dems a Win in Case Over Racially Gerrymandered Districts

Photo: Steve Helber (AP Photo)

The Supreme Court ruled 5–4 on Monday to dismiss an appeal by the GOP-majority Virginia House, with the court siding with the state’s Democrats demanding the state’s gerrymandered congressional district maps no longer be used.

The case, Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, was a big one: The conservative members of the House were attempting to overturn a prior ruling from a lower court that required a new set of maps for the upcoming General Assembly election, as the ones they drew up in 2011 were deemed to be racially gerrymandered. Had the court sided with the GOP, it could’ve stalled the upcoming November elections, when all 140 state House and Senate seats will be on the ballot.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch.

“In short, Virginia would rather stop than fight on,” Ginsburg wrote. “One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process.”

The ruling marked the second time that the infamous 2011 maps have gone before the Supreme Court. In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled one of the 12 districts to be unconstitutional but sent the remaining 11 back to the lower court for further consideration; last June, a panel of three judges ruled those 11 districts were drawn in a racially discriminatory manner. Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox appealed the ruling, taking it back to the Supreme Court and leading to Monday’s decision.

Virginia already held primaries last Tuesday using a new legislative map approved by a federal court in January. While Republicans currently maintain a narrow 51-49 command of the House, the new maps are more favorable for the Democrats. That said, they will only be in effect for this upcoming election, as still new maps will be drawn following the 2020 Census.

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