What a cluster-something-or-other: It’s almost April and there’s still no clarity whether Virginia will be required to run elections for House of Delegates in the fall.
For those not watching every twist and turn, a federal judge is still in the preliminary stage of weighing the lawsuit from a former Democratic Party of Virginia chair, arguing that the elections of 2021 were constitutionally invalid because they were held under the old districts.
Can’t hardly blame anyone or anything but COVID for that: Virginia didn’t get the federal census data in time to draw new lines for 2021, so elections in the 100 districts were held under the existing boundaries.
The case has moved at glacial speed, even by federal-judiciary standards; the judge recently castigated former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and his staff for dragging their feet on the matter during 2021 (as if the judge didn’t have the ability to speed things up?).
Our working theory is that Herring, incorrectly anticipating his own re-election last November, decided to tie up the case as long as possible to see how the House of Delegates’ elections turned out. If Democrats had held their majority, he may have continued to oppose new elections. If Republicans won a majority, he could have done a political 180-degree turn (a Herring specialty) and sided with calls for new elections. Just our guess.
We’ve long been dubious the lawsuit stands much of a chance. The actual damage done to the plaintiff, and others, has been minimal at best in the grand scheme of things, and can be rectified by holding delegate elections under the new districts in 2023 as scheduled. Yet we are no constitutional experts; the judge may have different ideas.
If new elections are indeed ordered, it will throw the entire situation upside down – higgledy-piggledy, even – with little time for candidates to prep for snap elections in the fall (and snap primaries even sooner). Does the public win if that is the eventuality? We think not.
Whatever the case, the judge needs to rule, quickly, so there can be some breathing space for all involved.