House GOP wants delay in case
Speaker wants to hear from Supreme Court first before new House district map is created
RICHMOND — Virginia House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox is asking a federal court to delay the creation of a new House of Delegates district map until after the Supreme Court hears the GOP’s request to keep the existing districts as they are.
In a statement announcing the stay, Cox, R-Colonial Heights, said Republicans will ask the Eastern District Court of Virginia to move the date of the 2019 House primary elections from June to mid-September.
The Supreme Court has set February 2019 as the hearing date for the case, and Cox said they would like to have an opinion rendered by the middle of May 2019.
“It makes sense to pause the process of developing a remedial map while that case is taken up,” Cox said in the statement. “The publication of a remedial map would create significant confusion and require state and local election officials to begin an inordinate amount of work preparing to use a map that may not even be necessary if the Supreme Court rules in our favor.
“We are asking the Court to stay the development of the remedial map until the Supreme Court can make a final decision in this case.”
After the House failed to meet the court-set Oct. 30 deadline to redraw 11 districts, the court stepped in
and ordered a University of California professor to oversee the new maps. Earlier this year, the court ruled that the districts in question were gerrymandered to adversely affect minority-voting
strengths. One of those districts is the 63rd House District, with Petersburg and portions of Hopewell, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie and Prince George.
The court-appointed special master has until next month to present his maps.
In his statement, Cox claimed that regardless of the lower court’s decision,”there is a
great deal of uncertainty around what the map will look like.”
The possibility of having two maps, according to Cox, “could create unnecessary chaos for candidates, election officials and voters.”
House Democrats and Gov. Ralph S. Northam are opposing the GOP request, claiming that the legislative impasse
over the districts made it necessary for the lower court to intervene.
On a related note, the grassroots group OneVirginia2021 plans to unveil a constitutional amendment Thursday morning to call for a citizens’ commission to draw the legislative districts without any input or oversight from the legislature. The group is
hoping to capitalize on a growing trend nationwide that favors taking the drawing responsibility out of legislators’ hands.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, recently issued an executive order creating a citizens panel to redistrict the state. Also, former California Gov. Arnold
Schwarznegger is championing anti-gerrymandering efforts across the country.
In Virginia, the House GOP opposes citizen redistricting.