As Virginia Republicans are set to defend and rebuild their majority in this year’s statewide elections, it could become more of battle at the ballot box as the Eastern District of Virginia has selected a map that heavily favors Democrats. The new legislative map drawn by the court-appointed “special master” reconfigured the lines of 26 districts, moving several powerful Republicans into more liberal-siding districts.
At least six Republican delegates would be running in districts where a majority of voters chose President Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election, according to an analysis of the maps by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court denied a request for a stay in the case after Speaker of the House of Delegates Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) petitioned the high court to move back the 2019 primaries as the eventual decision may change district boundaries after they are redrawn by the special master. The Republican caucus has remained confident that the original map, drawn in 2011 and upheld by both parties, including support from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, will be enforced.
To recap the months-long impasse in the House of Delegates:
There was the $4 million Democratic lawsuit challenging the 2011 map; a federal court ruling part of the map unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered; a motion filed to the Supreme Court by Republicans; a mysterious map maker hired by Democrats; a “politically-neutral, race-blind” remedial map from Republicans; a scheduled vote in Richmond after a bipartisan agreement; a promise to veto the new plan by Governor Ralph Northam (D); a judicial contingency plan; a “special master” to re-draw the districts; an announcement that the Supreme Court will hear the redistricting case from Republicans in the spring; Speaker Cox calling for a stay on the judicially-mandated map pending the high court decision and to move back 2019 House primaries; and then the denial of that request.
Both parties have until February 1 to file objections to the proposal before a final map is released as the GOP’s appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court continues to move forward, which is set to be heard this spring.