The Virginia Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed a lawsuit to proceed that accuses the General Assembly of violating the state constitution by drawing a new set of congressional district lines this year. The ruling prompted Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) to ask that the state delay its congressional primaries by two months.
Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) signed the Republican-authored redistricting map into law last week after months of partisan squabbling. The map strengthens all of the state’s current incumbents, likely preserving the current delegation split of eight Republicans and three Democrats.
But a group of Virginia voters filed suit in November in both state and federal court accusing the General Assembly of failing in its duties, because the Virginia Constitution says the Assembly “shall” draw new lines in 2011, and asking the courts to draw a new map that would be used in 2012 and beyond.
The state, represented by Cuccinelli’s office, has attempted to have the lawsuits dismissed. The plaintiffs won a key victory last week, when a circuit court judge in Richmond ruled that the lawsuit could continue and that the word “shall” in the constitution should be viewed as mandatory — a rebuke of the state’s argument.
On Tuesday, the Virginia Supreme Court denied a “writ of prohibition” filed by the state that argued the circuit court did not have the authority to rule on the case. The Supreme Court also declined to grant a quick appeal of the circuit court decision, even as the filing deadline for congressional candidates is now less than two months away.
The federal lawsuit is also moving forward, with a hearing scheduled in Alexandria next month.
With congressional primaries currently scheduled for June 12, Cuccinelli asked that the General Assembly pass legislation moving the balloting to August.
“If this is not done,” Cuccinelli said in a statement issued by his office, “congressional primaries currently scheduled for June may be disrupted if the new district lines are not approved by the federal government within the short timeframe remaining.”