Paul Goldman (Photo by Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
On Friday evening, Democratic attorney and activist Paul Goldman pushed out a text message with what he called “breaking news.” After an 11-month legal battle with the state of Virginia over whether the House of Delegates should have new elections this year, Goldman said he was planning to voluntarily drop the case.
But in an interview Monday morning, Goldman said he’s going to take most of this week to hear from others interested in his lawsuit and reassess on Friday whether he wants to continue,
“It shouldn’t take 11 months to find out whether you can sue,” Goldman said, referring to state lawyers’ pending efforts in federal court to have the case dismissed on mostly technical grounds.
Goldman, who filed the lawsuit last June, added he wasn’t faulting the judges for the delay, but rather a political establishment that has shown little interest in his argument the 2021 House of Delegates elections were unconstitutional, violating the one-person, one-vote principle by allowing wide population differences among the House’s 100 districts.
Because those elections were held on an old political map that was supposed to have been redistricted last year to ensure everyone’s vote counts equally, Goldman says, the courts should immediately order a special election on the new districts that now have roughly equal populations. The state argues it was forced to hold the elections on the outdated maps because the COVID-19 pandemic delayed U.S. Census data and made it impossible to implement new districts by last November.
Goldman said he expected the Democratic Party or voting rights groups to possibly join him in his suit after the 2021 election, when Republicans retook a majority in the House. Despite some statements of support from local Democratic committees, the Virginia NAACP and the ACLU of Virginia, no groups have filed amicus briefs with the court on Goldman’s behalf, leaving him mostly fighting alone at what he says has been “thousands of dollars” of personal expense.
“I never in a million years thought I’d be here alone,” Goldman said.
Lawyers for the state have argued Goldman lacks standing to bring the case because he cannot show his own rights to vote or run for office were violated by the delayed redistricting process, which wasn’t completed until late December.
Goldman also voiced concern that if he lost on standing grounds, his larger argument would be missed, and that withdrawing the suit altogether might help him make his own case to Virginians about the alleged illegality of the 2021 election.
“What I’m trying to figure out,” Goldman said, “is how to get people to realize that their rights were violated and their public officials didn’t give a damn.”
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