Virginia Redistricting Update: Election Limbo

Will the House of Delegates have elections in 2022?

As the 2022 General Assembly session wraps up, this is the question on everyone’s minds. For a refresher on how we got to this point, check out the earlier blog post on 2021 Redistricting in Virginia and the subsequent update.

Due to the delays in Census data, the new redistricting maps were not completed and approved in time for the 2021 elections, as originally intended. Because of this, the argument has been made that the current seats do not accurately represent the population, and therefore, are invalid. In June 2021, an individual named Paul Goldman filed a lawsuit suing the Board of Elections for violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The outcome of this court case will determine whether members of the House of Delegates will be allowed to complete their current two-year term and wait for the 2023 elections or be forced to run again in 2022.

The timeline of this case has certainly showcased our judicial system at work. In October 2021, then-Attorney General Mark Herring filed a motion to dismiss the case due to sovereign immunity; however, a U.S. district judge ruled that the case could move forward with more narrowed defendants. The attorney general’s office then appealed that decision to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where a three-judge panel heard oral arguments on March 8, 2022.  The current question at hand is whether Mr. Goldman has standing, meaning can he sufficiently demonstrate that he was “injured” by the old redistricting maps used in the 2021 election and is legally able to bring this lawsuit forward? If the answer is yes, then we go back to the original case determining if legislators must run again in 2022. If answer is no, and the court rules in favor of Attorney General Jason Miyares (who has taken over the case for Mark Herring), the case will be dismissed, and elections will be held in 2023.

However, as one might guess, the process continues to unfold without a resolution. A week after hearing arguments, the three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit determined that the lower court, U.S. District Court, should actually be the one to answer the standing question. Both sides have been given until mid-April to file new briefs, continuing this legal saga.

While waiting for the court’s decision, you can stay aware of the potential candidates in each race, by checking out the Virginia Public Access Project’s unofficial list of House of Delegates candidates for the next general election. As a reminder, with nearly half of the incumbent delegates and senators paired or tripled with other sitting delegates and senators, this next election (whenever it is) is sure to have a significant impact on Virginia’s political landscape.

Fun Fact: The House of Delegates last had consecutive elections in 1981, 1982, and 1983 as the result of the Cosner v. Dalton case.

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