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Supreme Court to Hear Virginia Redistricting Case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to look at racial gerrymandering in Virginia again, too late to matter this year and maybe not next year either.

In Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, the big issue is whether the state's districts must be redrawn to correct racial gerrymandering. But in taking the case, the Supreme Court left open the possibility that Virginia will resolve the issue itself before oral arguments.

Another issue may still make it to the courtroom, however. The justices may want to decide whether the state House of Delegates has standing in the case.

Racial Gerrymandering

It is not the first time the case has come before the Supreme Court. In 2017, the majority said 11 voting districts had to be re-examined for potential racial bias.

Last year, the state legislature worked through the summer on a redistricting plan to conform with Equal Protection law. They couldn't do it, however, and the case went back to federal court.

Meanwhile, the court and politicians are back to the drawing board. The Supreme Court has not stopped them.

"The important thing is the Supreme Court hasn't granted a stay as of right now," said Kathryn Gilley for House Democrats. "The district court is free to move forward with drawing the maps."

House Control

House Republicans barely hold a majority, having lost 15 seats to Democrats in the election last year. Redrawing the 11 districts, which allegedly packed-in black voters to dilute their vote in surrounding districts, could change all that.

Justin Levitt, a redistricting expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the Supreme Court may be more interested in another issue. He told the Washington Post that the question may be whether the Republicans have standing to sue.

In a brief, Virginia said the state attorney general represents the people -- not the House. Republicans countered that such a rule "would place state legislatures at the mercy of state executives."

Mark R. Herring, the Democratic attorney general, said the state would "best be served by bringing this long-running and expensive litigation to a close so that the unconstitutional racial gerrymanders identified in the district court's opinion may promptly be remedied."

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