Lawyers for the Virginia House of Delegates and Speaker Kirk Cox on Friday said they will pursue new district boundaries, but renewed their request to delay a redistricting order while they pursue their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A three-judge federal panel had given House GOP leaders until Friday to note whether they intended to comply with their order requiring lawmakers to submit new district lines for the House of Delegates by Oct. 30.
The judges previously ruled that in the 2011 redistricting process Virginia lawmakers unconstitutionally packed too many additional African-Americans into 11 majority-black districts, diluting black voting power in neighboring districts that lean Republican.
Gov. Ralph Northam has called the legislature back to Richmond on Thursday for a special session in order to redraw district boundaries.
In a statement filed with the judges Friday evening, lawyers for the GOP majority said they will pursue redistricting in the specified time frame, but added that “whether this can succeed depends on many separate political actors.”
“As the record before the court and federal case law makes clear, redistricting is a political process, so it remains unknown how the process will unfold in this instance.”
The lawyers note that House Minority Leader David Toscano, D-Charlottesville, is expected to propose a new map during Thursday’s session. The lawyers add that others could propose alternatives and that all proposed maps would be processed according to the rules of the House of Delegates.
In announcing the special session, Northam said: “It is in the public interest for the General Assembly to finalize constitutional maps as soon as possible — Virginians deserve that clarity.”
House Republicans say they would suffer “irreparable harm” if forced to proceed on redistricting before the U.S. Supreme Court takes up their appeal.