Big Ruling on Virginia Has Unusual Supreme Split

5-4 decision has liberals and conservatives on both sides of gerrymandering ruling
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 17, 2019 12:53 PM CDT
Big Ruling on Virginia Has Unusual Supreme Split
Visitors line up at the Supreme Court in Washington as the justices prepare to hand down decisions, Monday, June 17, 2019.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Virginians will elect members of the House of Delegates this year using a map seen as favorable to Democrats, according to a ruling Monday by the US Supreme Court. The political boundaries are important because Republicans currently control the House by a 51-49 margin, per the AP. Only four states are having legislative elections this year, and Virginia is the only one where Democrats have a chance of flipping control of the House and Senate. The high court's 5-4 decision was perhaps telegraphed by the fact that the justices previously allowed election planning to go forward with the new map. Virginia held its primary last week, and the November general election will be the last time the state uses this map because legislative districts will need to be redrawn to account for results from the 2020 census.

The justices let stand a lower court decision putting the new map in place, saying the Republican-controlled state House did not have a right to represent the state's interests in an appeal to the Supreme Court. The state could have decided to bring the case but did not, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote. "One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process," she wrote. The four justices joining her were Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch, a lineup that included conservatives and liberals. Dissenting were Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Samuel Alito, Stephen Breyer, and Brett Kavanaugh. Democrats had accused Republicans of drawing districts that were racially gerrymandered.

(More US Supreme Court stories.)

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