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Virginia will have to adopt a redrawn legislative districting map seen as beneficial to Democrats after the Supreme Court shot down a challenge to a lower court ruling claiming the old map was illegally drawn according to race.
The state's House of Delegates had appealed a court order that said 11 districts were the product of unconstitutional gerrymandering. The court said that Virginia would not be allowed to hold elections for those districts until they implemented a new districting plan. After that order was handed down, the Virginia Attorney General announced that the state would not be appealing the decision. The GOP-led House of Delegates, who had intervened as defendants in the case, went ahead with their own appeal.
The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the House of Delegates did not have standing to challenge it in the first place, and upheld the lower court's decision.
"The House, we hold, lacks authority to displace Virginia’s Attorney General as representative of the State," Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her opinion. "We further hold that the House, as a single chamber of a bicameral legislature, has no standing to appeal the invalidation of the redistricting plan separately from the State of which it is a part."
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Ginsburg was joined by Justices Thomas, Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch in ruling that it was not up to the House of Delegates to appeal a case that originally did not even involve them. When a group of 12 voters first brought the case in 2014, they were suing state agencies and election officials. They claimed that the Republican lawmakers who drew the old map intentionally put black residents into some districts so that the surrounding ones could be mostly white Republicans.
The House of Delegates then got involved and took the case further than the state Attorney General wished.
"In short, Virginia would rather stop than fight on," Ginsburg concluded. "One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process."
Virginia will now have to use a proposal for a new map that was chosen by the lower court. It will not take effect until after the November 2020 election, as it will be based on data from next year's census.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.