Supreme Court hands Virginia Democrats win in racial gerrymander case

WASHINGTON -- In a victory for Democrats in Virginia, the Supreme Court held Monday that the Republican-led Virginia House of Delegates did not have the legal right to challenge a lower court opinion that struck several district maps they had drawn as an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

This means court-ordered maps that favored Democrats will continue to be used.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the opinion for a 5-4 court, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch.

Because the Supreme Court dismissed the challenge on standing grounds, justices did not rule if the maps constitute an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

"One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process," Ginsburg wrote.

"If the State had designated the House to represent its interests, and if the House had in fact carried out that mission, we would agree that the House could stand in for the State. Neither precondition, however, is met here."

Top state Republican, Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox, said he was disappointed by the Supreme Court’s decision.

"The Court’s opinion today ends a disappointing saga of orchestrated attacks against the constitutionally-enacted redistricting plan. A shadowy organization funded by out-of-state interests has cost the taxpayers millions to overturn a legislative map that passed in 2011 that passed with an overwhelming majority," Speaker Cox (R - COLONIAL HEIGHTS) said. "Unfortunately, the Court’s decision to not decide the merits of this case leaves a number of unanswered questions just two years before the next redistricting cycle. This could have been prevented if Attorney General Herring would have defended the law of the Commonwealth and allowed the Court to provide an opinion on the merits of this case."

Despite the ruling, Speaker Cox said Virginia Republicans were poised to grow their majority in the House of Delegates.

Congressman Donald McEachin (D - HENRICO) had a different opinion on the Supreme Court's action.

"I applaud the Supreme Court’s ruling today. Virginia Republicans, led by Speaker Cox, disenfranchised thousands and thousands of voters of color by packing them into racially gerrymandered districts. This ruling means that all Virginia voters will have the opportunity to have their voices heard and to elect representatives of their choice," he said. "Republicans’ desperate attempt to hold on to power at the expense of democracy has been overturned. This is a good day for Virginia and Virginia citizens of all colors. These elections can truly be fair and honest."

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, also a Democrat, called the Supreme Court ruling a "victory for democracy and voting rights in our Commonwealth."

This is a developing story.

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