RICHMOND, Va. – A three-judge panel on Monday dismissed a lawsuit seeking to force all 100 members of the Republican-controlled Virginia House of Representatives to stand in an unscheduled election this year.
US District Judge David Novak, along with two other judges, ruled that Paul Goldman, a longtime Democratic Party activist, was not eligible to proceed with his lawsuit. Goldman had argued that House members elected to a two-year term in November 2021 must run again in 2022, under redrawn maps that properly align legislative districts with shifts in population.
The 2021 election should have been the first held under the constitutionally mandated redistribution based on the 2020 census. However, with census results delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state held elections below the old legal limits; new maps were not completed until December. Goldman argued that this stripped Virginians of their constitutional right to vote, violating the “one man, one vote” principle established by the US Supreme Court.
The court ruled that Goldman is not running as either a voter or a potential candidate and granted Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Goldman has not demonstrated that he suffered “individualized disadvantage” by residing in an underrepresented House district, the statement said. Instead, it said Goldman, a Richmond resident, benefited from over-representation.
“Had the new maps been available in time for the election, they would have weakened the plaintiff’s voice,” the court wrote.
In a statement, Miyares praised the ruling and said the 2021 election was “legal and constitutional”.
“Record numbers of Virginians have voted and heard their voices. I’m glad the court agreed with my office that there was no more uncertainty for voters and lawmakers and that we were able to protect the sanctity of our 2021 elections,” he said.
Goldman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision on standing to sue comes after months of delays and extensive briefings in the long-running case. Goldman, attorney, former leader of the Democratic Party and former adviser to the ex-premier. Doug Wilder brought the suit alone, representing himself. Miyares’ predecessor, Democrat Mark Herring, also called for his removal.
Members of the House of Representatives on both sides of the aisle had been largely silent on Goldman’s legal battle, despite a growing number of Democratic and voting and civil rights groups voicing their support in recent months.
Had Goldman convinced the court that new elections were needed, it would have caused enormous inconvenience to many lawmakers, throwing them back into campaign mode and forcing some to consider relocating. Lawmakers must reside in the district they represent, and the new lines of law approved by the state Supreme Court were drawn up without regard to where incumbents live.
Currently, Republicans narrowly control the chamber they flipped in November.
The court said voters who live in counties with more residents than the ideal county “are likely to have standing because they are underrepresented compared to the ideal county.”
Other potential plaintiffs tried unsuccessfully to join Goldman’s lawsuit. It was not immediately clear if a new legal challenge would be filed.
The Loudoun County NAACP said earlier this year that it was evaluating whether to file its own lawsuit. In a letter, the group said the use of outdated maps in the 2021 election has “stifled voting, diluted votes and reduced representation” of the group’s 637 members and thousands of people of color who live in the county.
The group did not immediately respond to a voicemail message left at their office or to an email sent Monday.
Herring – who for months last year ignored a request for official comment on the matter – sought to have the lawsuit dismissed on grounds of sovereign immunity. Novak dismissed charges against former Gov. Ralph Northam and several other defendants, but declined to dismiss charges against state election officials.
Since then, much of the contention in the case has focused on Goldman’s reputation. In March, the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals referred the resignation issue to the US District Court for decision.
A federal judge had done so last October, before the matter reached the 4th Circuit appointed a panel of three judges to hear the case. Monday’s statement said the panel of three judges “jointly adjudicates the matter constitutes the most efficient process given the unique procedural nature of this case.”
Novak authored the advisory opinion and was assisted by US Circuit Judge Stephanie Thacker and Senior US District Judge Raymond Jackson.
Associated Press writer Denise Lavoie contributed to this report.
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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/06/judges-toss-suit-seeking-virginia-house-elections-this-year/ Judges are dropping lawsuits to seek Virginia House of Representatives elections this year