While the national leader of the GOP asserts that he is the least racist [seriously?] person we know, the VA GOP in the person of Kirk Cox, the Speaker of the House of Delegates, has requested that the federal district court stay [just a little bit longer] implementation of its order for new electoral maps to be drawn. The basis for the requested delay rests upon an appeal filed by the state political party to SCOTUS, which is not likely to rule until May or June 2019. Primaries in the Commonwealth are scheduled for June 11.
However, the true basis for the delay tactic most likely relates to the 21-19 margin the GOP holds in the Senate and its 51-49 House margin. Both are threatened in 2019 by the potential for another assault by the Democratic party. Cox’s strategy implies a desperate one to sustain the narrow margin in the General Assembly.
Eleven of the state’s electoral districts were found to have been racially gerrymandered. Thus the state GOP’s request is simple: remain racially bound for a little longer and afford more time for GOP candidates to benefit from the distortion. At present, new maps are under preparation and due to be filed with the court on December 7 [prophetic?] for implementation for the primaries.
At the same time, on November 29, a proposal for a state constitutional amendment was unveiled to create an independent commission to draw electoral boundary lines following the 2020 census in an effort to bring to an end Virginia’s costly and continuous conflicts involving gerrymandering. GOP efforts to sustain the gerrymandered districting map have already cost taxpayers more than $5 million in legal expenses. Attorney General Mark Herring has declined to represent Virginia in the SCOTUS appeal, opening a question as to whether the state GOP has standing to challenge the district court determination. The vote in the General Assembly may be a cautionary tale of partisanship or a final acknowledgment of the demise of gerrymandering in Virginia.
The district court is under no compulsion to grant Cox’s request for a delay and, given the fact that SCOTUS previously remanded the case to the district court from an earlier unsuccessful appeal by Virginia, may proceed with the December maps. There is nothing new in the GOP’s latest appeal that differentiates it from the earlier one except that the district court subsequently determined a racial component in the gerrymandered district boundaries.
Returning to the national scene, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) also announced on November 29 that he will not vote for the controversial nominee for the District Court of Eastern North Carolina, Thomas Farr. Farr’s history as an architect of NC’s voter ID laws and a principal of racial tactics in his time as an operative for Jesse Helms have fatally punctured his judicial dreams. Farr was one of Trump’s picks supported by Mitch McConnell as part of the GOP plan to propagate the federal judiciary with as many right wing candidates as possible. The defeat of the Farr candidacy translates as a federal judiciary just a little bit fairer, just a little bit longer.
VoxFairfax is grateful to Maurice Williams and the Zodiac (1960) for inspiration for the title of this article.