The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously to dismiss the appeal filed by the Republican Congressional delegation against the newly re-drawn Virginia Congressional Districts. This means that the new districts created by a three judge panel will now stand.
The Court dismissed the appeal because they said the Republican Congressmen who brought the case lacked standing to purse it because they could not demonstrate any injury. Congressman Randy Forbes, whose current seat in the 4th District was the most affected by the new lines, has moved out of the 4th in order to compete for the 2nd District seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Scott Rigell.
Congressmen Forbes had previously told the court that if the new redistricting was overturned he would return to the 4th District to run for re-election. However, after oral arguments, lawyers for Forbes sent a letter to the court stating that he would be remaining in the 2nd District no matter what the outcome of the case. Based on that position the Justices decided that Forbes’ unwillingness to run for re-election in the 4th no matter how they ruled meant that he could not demonstrate an injury that could be remedied. In his opinion, Justice Breyer wrote for the court that, “given this letter, we do not see how any injury that Forbes might have suffered ‘is likely to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision'”
Both 1st District Congressman, Rob Wittman, and 7th District Congressman, Dave Brat, had changes made to their districts, but the justices ruled that the changes were not significant enough to demonstrate any actual harm. “Even assuming, without deciding, that this kind of injury is legally cognizable, Representatives Wittman and Brat have not identified record evidence establishing their alleged harm,” Breyer wrote.
By ruling that the three Congressmen lacked the standing to sue, the courts ignored the original merits of the case, which revolve around whether the 3rd District was illegally Gerrymandered in the first place. Ironically, it was the Democratic Party that pushed for the creation of “Majority-Minority” districts in the first place because it was assumed this would guarantee the election of Democrats to these districts. It was only after realizing that this practice ended up creating more Republican leaning seats in the rural and suburban areas that Democrats began challenging the creation of these districts.
Republicans currently hold an 8 to 3 advantage over the Democrats in Virginia’s 11 Congressional Districts. Even with the 4th District becoming more favorable to a Democrat candidate, Congressman Forbes would have been the strongest candidate to retain that seat for the Republicans given his near 16 year record of representing that district. With Forbes’ departure for greener pastures in the 2nd, he has cost the Republicans a favorable ruling in court, and possibly handed the newly drawn 4th District to the Democrats.
It remains to be seen whether this will be used against Congressman Forbes in his primary battle against Delegate Scott Taylor and Pat Cardwell for the 2nd District nomination, but given the negative tone this race has already taken, I would not be surprised to hear about a mailer or email blast trumpeting Forbes’ role in this ruling.