RICHMOND — Virginia House Speaker Kirk Cox has canceled the legislative session he had set for Oct. 21 to take up a state redistricting plan, citing Gov. Ralph Northam’s opposition.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has given the state until Oct. 30 to come up with a plan to correct 11 state House districts that it said were racially gerrymandered.
Without action by the General Assembly, the court will redraw the boundaries itself.
Cox (R-Colonial Heights) and other GOP House leaders have appealed that ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court but had pledged to pass a plan before the deadline. He said earlier this week that the House would convene Oct. 21 to vote on a plan approved by a committee late last month.
Though the GOP redistricting plan was prepared with input from a handful of Democrats, it passed the committee on a straight party-line vote. On Tuesday, Northam (D) said that if Cox called the House back to approve that plan, he would veto it.
“I am rescinding my call for the House of Delegates to reconvene because I do not think we should waste legislators’ time or taxpayer money on a session when the governor’s mind is evidently made up,” Cox said in a news release Friday evening. He said Northam believes the court will draw up a plan more favorable to Democrats.
Northam has called on the General Assembly to act next spring to create a nonpartisan mechanism for drawing legislative districts.
The 11 districts in the court’s ruling are in Hampton Roads and greater Richmond, but redrawing their boundaries will affect other districts around them. Control of the House of Delegates hangs in the balance; Republicans are clinging to a 50-to-49 majority in the 100-seat chamber. One longtime Republican-held district faces a special election later this year because a Roanoke-area delegate stepped down.