High Court Rules Against GOP in Gerrymandering Battle

Virginia voters persuaded a federal judge in 2017 that 11 of the 12 election districts pictured in this 2011 map were racially gerrymandered by Republican lawmakers. (Image via Virginia’s Public Access Project)

RICHMOND, Va. (CN) — On the road to oral arguments this spring, the U.S. Supreme Court shot down a bid late Tuesday to preserve Virginia election districts that were found to be racially gerrymandered.

The Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates had petitioned for the stay last month. Represented by Kirkland and Ellis attorney Paul Clement, the lawmakers are contesting a 2017 decision by a three-judge panel, which found that they unconstitutionally drew 11 election districts six years earlier to have at least 55 percent black voters.

Though the Supreme Court is set to hear the House’s appeal in March, the Eastern District of Virginia has been moving ahead with map-redrawing process with an eye towed Virginia’s next House general election in November 2019.

Up to 26 districts could be affected by the redraw ordered by the lower court, and the 2019 election implicates 100 seats in the Virginia House as well as 40 seats in the Senate.

The court in Richmond is set to consider new legislative maps on Thursday, with input from Bernard Grofman, a professor from the University of California at Irvine who submitted a 131-page report in the case last month.

Last month in an opposition brief, state Solicitor General Toby Heytens accused the GOP-controlled state House of trying to undo the will of two judicial bodies as well as the people of Virginia.

Voters led by Golden Bethune-Hill filed an opposition brief as well with help from Perkins Coie attorney Marc Elias.

The Supreme Court did not note any dissents Thursday in refusing to grant a stay. Arguments slated for later this year are set to occur exactly year from when the Supreme Court effectively punted a previous opportunity to rule on Virginia’s 2011 map.

Meanwhile Friday the Supreme Court agreed to take up cases out of Maryland and North Carolina where voters allege a novel theory of partisan gerrymandering.

The justices scheduled briefing for the new cases in a separate order Tuesday.

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