Want To Watch Ruth Bader Ginsburg Kick The Virginia GOP In The Jimmies?
Look, it is your afternoon Nice Times at the Supreme Court! It is also your WUT and HUH Times, with Justices Thomas, Sotomayor, Kagan and Gorsuch joining in an opinion by RBG tossing a challenge to Virginia's new, fair districts. Go know!
After the 2010 Census, Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates did what they do best -- they stole more elections, redrawing the electoral map to ensure themselves a supermajority for all eternity. Why let the voters choose their representatives when the representatives can pick their own voters as the founders intended, right? Voters in 12 of the affected districts sued the Virginia State Board of Elections in 2014 to invalidate the districts as illegal racial gerrymanders, and the House of Delegates intervened in Bethune-Hill v. Va. State Bd. of Elections to support the Board and defend its own power.
After extensive litigation including a trip up to the Supreme Court in 2017, the District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia tossed 11 of the districts as illegal racial gerrymanders and ordered the maps redrawn in 2018. At which point, the Commonwealth of Virginia noped out and quit defending the old, craptastic districts, which should have been the end of it.
BUT NO. The Virginia House of Delegates, which is still held by the GOP despite their party netting nine percent fewer votes than Democrats in the 2017 election, vowed to fight on.
They told the District Court to go piss up a rope, because they sure as shit weren't redrawing the map. Which is fine by us, since the Court hired an independent cartographer who drew fair lines for the 2019 primaries held last week. (Three guesses why Virginia likes to hold its elections in off-off years when no one is showing up to vote!) Then the Delegates filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on their own behalf, making themselves the new plaintiffs and rechristening the case Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill.
Justice Ginsburg, writing for the majority, held that the Republican legislators did not have standing to keep up the litigation, saying, "In short, Virginia would rather stop than fight on. One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue the litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process." In his dissent, Justice Alito argued that the legislators do have standing as the parties who will be harmed by losing their seats if the districts are fairly drawn. But the majority said that the House of Delegates as a body has no legally recognizable interest in the identity or party affiliation of its members.
Redrawing district lines indeed may affect the chamber's membership, but the House as an institution has no cognizable interest in the identity of its members. The House has no prerogative to select its own members. It is a representative body composed of members chosen by the people. Changes in its membership brought about by the voting public thus inflict no cognizable injury on the House.
Put that shit right in our veins, baby!
It's a little win, to be sure. The Court could come out Thursday with a 5-4 opinion blessing partisan gerrymandering in all its hideous flavors, leaving the GOP to gerrymander itself into power forever. But right now, Virginia's legislative districts get unfucked. And if Democrats can take back the Virginia House of Delegates this year, they get to redraw the maps after the 2020 Census. Which is very Nicetimes indeed!
Not everything is terrible ALL of the time. Like the nice feeling we get when you send us money to keep on keeping on!
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.