Monday, April 18, 2011

Sound Legal Basis for Veto of Redistricting Plan

I’ve taken a closer look at the governor’s veto message which cited several legal issues with redistricting bill passed by the General Assembly. In short, all of them are well grounded given Supreme Court precedent and the Virginia constitution.

  • The Plan violates the Virginia Constitution because the proposed districts are not compact. The governor clearly is right on this one. Though “compact” may be a subjective term, anyone who’s seen the crayon scribble from the Senate plan knows well that it could never pass a “compactness” test. As such, it fails to meet the requirements of Art. II, sec. 6 of the Virginia Constitution which requires, “Every electoral district shall be composed of contiguous and compact territory and shall be so constituted as to give, as nearly as is practicable, representation in proportion to the population of the district.”

  • The Plan violates the one-person, one-vote ideal of both the United States and Virginia constitutions. The Supreme Court has not required mathematical precision in the equal population of voting districts provided there’s a good reason for it. With the Senate plan, though, there’s a significant disparity and no good reason for it. As such, it’s unlikely to withstand constitution muster under Karcher v. Daggett.

  • The Plan is raw political gerrymandering. Going back to the crayon map again, no one could deny that. One may argue that such is the case with every redistricting, including the House bill. The Senate bill, however, is so egregious that it could well be invalidated under the Supreme Court’s precedent in David v. Bandemere in which the Court held that disenfranchisement of minority political parties, not just minority races, could be the basis for invalidating a reapportionment plan

In other words, far from being a political move, which the governor is entirely entitled to make, the veto of the redistricting plan was proper in light of the successful court challenge that inevitably would have resulting had the bill become law. That’s not to say court challenges won’t come (and I think they will), but that’s the topic of my next post.


  1. and the HD does not have these same problems?

  2. Larry, it has some of the problems as the Senate plan - and the governor recognized as much in his veto plan. However, the House plan, unlike the Senate plan, had broad bi-partisan support.