Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Virginia Can Engage in Mid-cycle Redistricting

Monday's redrawing of Virginia Senate Districts was likely Constitutional.

On Monday, Virginia Senate Republicans redrew Virginia's state senate districts utilizing their bare majority due to the absence of Senator Henry Marsh who was a couple hours up the road attending inauguration activities.

I have seen repeated calls for the plan to be struck down as unconstitutional under the Virginia Constitution.  Up until a few days ago, I agreed that mid-cycle redistricting was likely unconstitutional.

I repeatedly heard of a redistricting case from early 2012 in Richmond that prohibited mid-cycle redistricting, but no one seemed to have read the case.

I looked into some arguments, and had changed my mind.

Then I obtained a copy of the opinion.

In part:

The Constitution of Virginia dictates that “[t]he authority of the General Assembly shall extend to all subjects of legislation not herein forbidden or restricted; and a specific grant of authority in this Constitution upon a subject shall not work a restriction of its authority upon the same or any other subject.”  VA. CONST. art. IV, § 14 . . . The Court is unable construe Article II, Section 6, [regarding apportionment] as cabining the General Assembly’s authority to enact decennial reapportionment legislation to 2011 and foreclosing the enactment of such legislation in 2012.  Moreover, the 2004 amendments to this provision, specifically the addition of the word, “decennial,” and the replacement of the date in a section containing two-hundred-fifty-one words, do not support a finding that these revisions divested the General Assembly of its authority to enact decennial reapportionment legislation in 2012 after it failed to do so in 2011."  Slip Op pp. 7-8.

Reading the entire opinion is necessary if you want to understand the breadth and detail of the ruling.  The Judge did leave a loophole for later adjudication, and this legislation may beget the test case for that loophole.

Please note that this opinion is not binding outside of the parties in that case.  Nonetheless, the reasoning is sound, and I do not feel I could say it better myself.

The lawsuit to strike down the bill will likely fail, but the press generated will be damaging.  Republicans concerned about the effects on our statewide ticket this November need to urge the House to reject the legislation and the Governor to veto it.  Pass the bill in the light of day, and we will talk. 

As previously laid out the current senate districts from the Democrats are a travesty.

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