VA GOP is challenging the Supreme Court gerrymandering ruling

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By Brandon Jarvis

The VA GOP is challenging the ruling that district lines must be redrawn in Virginia. At the end of June, a panel of district and appellate judges decided that Republicans were guilty of packing African-American voters into districts that were already drawn to favor the election of African-American Democrats.

When the ruling came down, Speaker Cox was quick to release a statement of disappointment.

“These districts were drawn with overwhelming bipartisan support, including with the support of a majority of the African-American members of the House of Delegates,” Cox said. “We have reviewed the Court’s decision, and we anticipate filing a prompt appeal to the United States Supreme Court. It would be premature to even consider any action by the General Assembly until the Supreme Court speaks on these districts.”

Lawyers for the House Speaker Kirk Cox of Colonial Heights filed an appeal with the Supreme Court to prevent them from having to redraw district lines by the October 30th deadline.

In their argument, the documents state that they believe it is a “fair prospect” that five justices will vote to overturn the decision.

“There is a “reasonable probability” that four members of the Supreme Court
will vote to note probable jurisdiction and a “fair prospect” that at least five will
vote to reverse the decision below. Id. Additionally, irreparable harm will result
from the denial of a stay and the balance of equities weighs in favor of granting a
stay. Id. Accordingly, this court should stay its injunction pending review in the
Supreme Court.”

They also state that the decision just ordered was done under too-narrow of circumstances to make it correct.

“this court erred in finding that a 55% BVAP threshold was not narrowly tailored and erred in finding that Plaintiffs’ District-specific evidence supports a finding of racial predominance by a preponderance of the evidence. There is a fair prospect that a majority of the Supreme Court will reverse these decisions. The court in this case committed plain legal error by determining that a 55% BVAP threshold was not narrowly tailored to achieve compliance with § 5 of the Voting Right’s Act’s (VRA) non-retrogression requirement “

The GOP leaders are arguing that it is legally impossible to draw the lines the way the judges have required them to do. “This court’s opinion makes it legally impossible to thread that needle,” wrote Katherine L. McKnight to the Richmond Times Dispatch.  McKnight is a D.C.-based attorney with the BakerHostetler law firm.

The dynamics around central Va politics could change with the majority of the districts to be redrawn. Cox can expect to feel some sort of impact with HD-63 in Petersburg, being the neighboring to Speaker Cox’s HD-66 district, on the list to be redrawn.

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