Multiple construction zones surround the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond, Va, June 3, 2022. A new tunnel will connect the Capitol with the new General Assembly building. (Parker Michels-Boyce for the Virginia Mercury)
Jeff Thomas, an author of two books on Virginia government and politics, has filed a new federal lawsuit seeking new Virginia House of Delegates elections this year, an effort to pick up the redistricting-based challenge originally pursued by Democratic attorney Paul Goldman.
Earlier this week, a federal court ruled Goldman lacks standing to sue over the state’s delayed redistricting process, which forced the 2021 House elections to be run under an outdated political map. The state was supposed to have new maps in place by early 2021, but late-arriving U.S. Census data meant the redistricting process wasn’t completed until after the 2021 House elections, effectively creating a two-year extension for the old House districts and many of the incumbents who represent them.
Thomas tried to join Goldman’s lawsuit in October, but the court rejected the effort. In the opinion dismissing Goldman’s lawsuit, the court acknowledged the possibility Thomas could file his own suit in response to the dismissal.
It’s unclear if Thomas’s effort will lead to a different result, but Goldman’s case was dismissed largely on technical grounds based on the specific makeup of Goldman’s House district as it existed in 2021. Goldman’s district was underpopulated when compared to the ideal district size. But Thomas’s Richmond-area district was overpopulated, potentially giving him a stronger claim his vote was illegally diluted by the state’s failure to complete redistricting on time.
The court didn’t rule on the merits of the case brought by Goldman, but Goldman and others have expressed doubt over whether there’s enough time left for an appeal or new lawsuit to work through the legal process and still give election officials a realistic chance to conduct unscheduled Virginia House elections in November. If all legal challenges fail, the House will be up for election in 2023 on the new, properly sized districts.
In his 11-page complaint filed with the same court Wednesday, Thomas asked for speedy consideration of his case “given the time-sensitive nature” and the court’s “acute familiarity” with the issues.
“Plaintiff respectfully submits that there are no facts actually in dispute in this case… and that the facts giving rise to this case would never have come to pass if there were attorneys independently representing the people beyond the reach of politics,” Thomas wrote. “The current unconstitutional scheme benefits 100 incumbents and their political dependents.”
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