A federal judge today denied a request from the General Assembly to delay redistricting until the court’s ruling can be appealed to the Supreme Court.
This means that the court’s deadline of September 1, 2015 for the General Assembly to draw new lines is now very real, and will be dealt with in the upcoming special session beginning August 17.
Speaker Bill Howell and Senate Majority Tommy Norment issued a brief statement moments ago (rightly) expressing disappointment in the decision.
“We are disappointed that the Court declined our request to extend its deadline for legislative action related to the Congressional redistricting lawsuit until November 16. We continue to believe that an extension would have preserved the right of the defendants to fully litigate this case, while still giving ample time for the Commonwealth to prepare in advance of the 2016 Congressional elections. We are evaluating our next steps.”
What those next steps will be, exactly, is unclear. We know that new districts will be drawn, and that they’ll at least change the boundaries of the Third Congressional District (the subject of the underlying suit), which could mean there are ripple effect changes across all other districts as well. Or, a plan may emerge for a wholesale redrawing of all the lines. Everything’s on the table.
One thing is clear: it’s uncomfortable right now if you’re a Congressman not at the top of Howell’s or Norment’s Christmas card lists. Another: we’re about to see some horse trading unfold in a hurry.