The Bulletin

Election calendar lawsuit at standstill

By: - November 22, 2021 12:01 am

The sun rises over the Virginia Capitol. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Republicans narrowly gained control of the House of Delegates in November, but their majority might only last a year if a three-judge panel sides with Paul Goldman, a Democratic lawyer and onetime aide to former Gov. Doug Wilder, who says the elections were invalid.

Goldman claims in his lawsuit that because the elections were held using an old political map that didn’t reflect the new U.S. Census data, the districts don’t accurately reflect population shifts that have happened since 2010. A ruling in favor of Goldman could mean that all 100 members of the House will have to run again next year.

“The people have been denied their rights,” Goldmans said. “You cannot hold an election in a reapportionment year using the old districts. What they did is unconstitutional.”

But his lawsuit is currently at a standstill, awaiting a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. That’s because Attorney General Mark Herring’s office appealed District Court Judge David Novak’s ruling earlier this year that the case could proceed, dismissing Herring’s argument that the state Board of Elections should be immune from such lawsuits.

If the Court of Appeals sides with Herring, more appeals could follow. But if not, it will head back to district court, where it will be heard in front of the panel of judges — composed of U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker and U.S. District Judges Raymond Jackson and Novak.

Goldman said he is confident that the court will uphold Novak’s ruling that the members of the State Board of Elections can be sued in federal court. 

“They’re going to lose,” Goldman said. “You can sue. It’s been well decided. I don’t understand their argument or identified anybody who does.”

Herring has decided to keep quiet on whether Virginia must hold new House elections next year despite Novak urging him to issue an opinion. A spokeswoman for Herring, Charlotte Gomer, wrote in an email to The Mercury that Herring’s office doesn’t comment on pending opinion requests. 

The lawsuit could be delayed further once Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares comes into office, because he will need time to review the suit, Goldman said. 

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Jackie Llanos Hernandez
Jackie Llanos Hernandez

Jackie Llanos Hernandez was a Virginia Mercury intern while studying journalism and anthropology at University of Richmond. Jackie grew up in Colombia before moving to Virginia. Jackie is also the investigative and multimedia editor at the independent student-run newspaper, The Collegian.