House GOP wants de­lay in case

Speaker wants to hear from Supreme Court first be­fore new House district map is cre­ated

The Progress-Index - - FRONT PAGE - By Bill Atkin­son As­sis­tant Ed­i­tor

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.

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