RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Tuesday sent a lawsuit seeking to force Virginia to hold House elections this year back to a lower court, instructing it to decide whether the Democratic activist who brought the suit has legal standing to sue.
Paul Goldman, a former state Democratic party chair, argues that House members elected in 2021 must run again in 2022 under newly redrawn maps that properly align legislative districts with population shifts. But the state Attorney General’s Office argued last week before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the 2021 election was “perfectly constitutional.”
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit said the lower court — U.S. District Court — should decide the question of standing.
The November 2021 House elections were supposed to be the first held under constitutionally required redistricting under the 2020 census. But because the census results were delayed, the state held elections under the existing legislative boundaries because new lines had not yet been drawn.
Goldman’s lawsuit argues that new elections must be held under new maps that were approved by the Supreme Court of Virginia in December.
Former Attorney General Mark Herring attempted to have the lawsuit thrown out on sovereign immunity grounds. U.S. District Judge David Novak dismissed claims against former Gov. Ralph Northam and several other defendants, but did not dismiss claims against state elections officials.
The 4th Circuit panel said it will retain jurisdiction on the appeal filed by the attorney general’s office on the issue of sovereign immunity.
Democrats held a 55-45 majority in the House of Delegates until Republicans took control of the chamber in the 2021 elections. Republicans now hold a 52-48 majority.
If Goldman loses, elections won’t be held until 2023.