RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The political activist seeking Virginia House elections this year under new maps wants a federal judge to reject the attorney general’s office’s argument that his legal effort would also require the state Senate to have elections, calling it the state’s “latest red herring.”
Paul Goldman, a former chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, and state attorneys have been going back and forth over the case in court filings as the Eastern District of Virginia considers whether Goldman has legal standing to sue.
Last June, Goldman filed a lawsuit arguing that the 2021 House of Delegates elections were invalid because they were held under districts drawn using 2010 census data and that population variations between the new districts did not meet “one person, one vote” standards.
The lawsuit seeks to force House elections this year using the new political maps approved by the state’s Supreme Court. But Goldman’s argument that he has the standing to sue as a voter and a prospective candidate has been challenged by Virginia’s last two attorney generals, Republican Jason Miyares and Democrat Mark Herring.
The ongoing legal battle comes ahead of the June primaries for the 2022 midterms. If Goldman prevails in court, the House would hold elections three years in a row and candidates would face a time crunch to campaign before the November elections.
The lawsuit remains in the hands of the court, which will decide if the case should move forward or be dismissed.
Goldman wants to know which delegate represents him
In its final motion to dismiss the case, Attorney General Miyares’ office argues Goldman has not provided evidence that he has personally suffered injury as a voter due to the decision to hold last year’s House elections under districts not updated with new population data.
The state attorneys wrote in the filing that Goldman has refused to offer evidence that he voted in the last election, which they argue he must do to prove that his right to vote was injured.
Goldman filed a brief calling for the state’s Department of Elections to provide the evidence and to share which state delegate represents him. Susan Beals, Virginia’s new elections commissioner, claims in a declaration attached to the motion to dismiss that she is unaware if Goldman voted in last year’s elections.
Beals wrote in the declaration that Goldman was “redistricted into the House of Delegates District 78,” which is represented by Del. James Leftwich Jr. (R-Chesapeake). “Plaintiff [Goldman] does not recall seeing Mr. Leftwich’s name on the ballot when he voted in November,” Goldman wrote in his brief.
“Even if Goldman has sufficiently demonstrated at this stage of the litigation that he voted in the 2021 election, he must further demonstrate that he suffered an injury to his individual right to a properly weighted vote,” the state attorneys wrote in the motion to dismiss. “Goldman entirely fails to do so.”
The attorney general’s office adds that Goldman’s argument “has nothing to do with standing,” but instead focuses on the deviations between districts that he says proves the 2021 election was held under unconstitutional maps.
“The question before the Court, however, is not whether the maps used in the 2021 election were unconstitutional, but whether Goldman has standing to challenge those maps at all,” Miyares’ office wrote.
Miyares’ office says Goldman lacks standing and presents a new argument
At this point of the case, the Eastern District of Virginia is only considering whether Goldman has legal standing to sue.
Goldman has said he is considering a House run if elections are held later this year and claims that his home district and others do not have equal representation based on population.
The state asserts in its motion to dismiss that Goldman’s district “was not malapportioned during the 2021 election,” arguing that a potential run on a new set of maps does not grant standing to challenge maps used for another election.
Miyares’ office also contends, as it did in court, that the 2021 House elections did not violate the U.S. Constitution, writing in the motion to dismiss that the 2010 census was the best data available for the elections due to this year’s census delays. The attorney general’s office offered another argument, one that lawmakers have brought up during the legal battle.
“Goldman’s theory of the effect of the redistricting order would also require a new election for Virginia’s Senate more than eighteen months before the next scheduled Senate election because the district maps for that chamber were also redrawn,” the motion to dismiss states.
In response, Goldman filed a brief asking the court to “not consider Defendants’ last-minute state senate argument.”
Goldman cites a section of Virginia’s Constitution that states “districts delineated in the decennial reapportionment law shall be implement for the November general election for…(state) Senate… that is held immediately prior to the expiration of the term being served in the year that the reappointment law is required to be enacted.”