Some have charged that the Commonwealth lacks an overtly honest effort in drawing political districts that adhere to the state’s constitutional requirement that they shall be, “composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.” Nevertheless, the Virginia Supreme Court has ruled unanimously upheld the current outlines of the House of Delegates districts that have been challenged.
On Thursday, Speaker of the House Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) said via a press release, “We are pleased that the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the validity of the challenged House Districts.”
In Vesilind v. Virginia Board of Elections, the plaintiffs in the case argued that Virginia’s 2011 legislative districts violate the state’s constitution. They claimed that the General Assembly improperly subordinated the constitutional requirement of compactness to achieve political objectives, such as political advantage and incumbent protection.
“As we have always said, Virginia has a fair and open redistricting process that involves multiple hearings and extensive input from the public,” Cox explained. “The process to draw this specific plan was rigorous, consistent with all state and federal law, and more inclusive of the public than any Virginia plan in recent memory.”
The plaintiffs argued in their amicus brief that there is a, “critical threat posed by the surgical nature of gerrymandering,” and said the process of redistricting was “undemocratic.”
When it comes to the “compactness” of a legislative district, the Virginia Supreme Court said in their unanimous opinion, ” This Court does not agree that the Virginia Supreme Court has ever established a constitutionally required minimum compactness score for measuring the priority given to compactness in drawing legislative districts.”
The Court found there is no preponderance of evidence to conclude that Virginia’s legislative districts are drawn in an unconstitutional manner.
Cox added that, “The [redistricting] plan garnered overwhelming bi-partisan support in both chambers. As the Court said today the districts were compact and consistent with Virginia Supreme Court precedent, and the process to draw compact districts in 2011 was sound. We appreciate the diligence of the Justices in this important case.”