Virginia's Congressional District Lines
On Monday, Virginia got an embarrassing taste of what can happen when your Attorney General refuses to enforce the laws of the Commonwealth. The Supreme Court heard argument in a case that will determine the boundaries of Virginia’s Third Congressional District, currently held by Democrat Bobby Scott. The Justices struggled to decide how states can get their electoral maps just right. But the Supreme Court may not address that question at all, because several Justices doubted that anyone had a right to defend the Legislature once a lower court threw out the map.
Normally, the Attorney General of Virginia defends the electoral map drawn by the General Assembly. That is, of course, because of the basic proposition that our Attorney General is Virginia’s lawyer. And that is his job. But now Mark Herring is scuttling the General Assembly’s efforts in court. If the Supreme Court holds that no one else has standing to defend that map, then Mark Herring will have ensured that the work of Virginia’s elected legislators is tossed to the curb.
Justice Alito summed up the problem: If a state Attorney General decides “not to defend the legality of a redistricting plan that was adopted by the legislature, and that decision was made purely for partisan reasons,” then the Supreme Court may decide that even “a candidate who was severely adversely affected by that should not be able to challenge it.” That’s what happens when your Attorney General elevates politics above duty.
The Supreme Court will announce its decision by late June.