RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The president of the Loudoun County NAACP and the local chapter’s former president have joined the latest federal lawsuit seeking Virginia House of Delegates elections this year under the state’s new legislative districts.
Rev. Michelle C. Thomas, the chapter’s current president, and former chapter president Phillip Thompson joined an amended complaint from Jeff Thomas against the Virginia Department of Elections, its new commissioner and the chairman of the Virginia Board of Elections.
Jeff Thomas filed his lawsuit after a similar one filed last year by Democratic attorney Paul Goldman was dismissed in early June for a lack of legal standing, a ruling Goldman has appealed.
Both lawsuits seek to force the Eastern District of Virginia to order new state House elections in the fall, asserting the 2021 elections last November were held under a map drawn using 2010 census data that diluted the vote of those living in overpopulated districts.
Unlike Goldman’s case, the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit are voters living in some of the most overpopulated districts and argue that their votes in 2021 were weakened compared to voters in the least populous district.
The amended lawsuit that now includes Rev. Thomas, and Thompson alleges the state’s decision to hold elections under the old districts violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act because the plaintiffs and other similarly-situated residents were underrepresented.
“Without Court intervention, Defendants will continue to harm the rights of Plaintiffs and all other similarly-situated voters to equal protection, equal voting rights and equal political representation in the Virginia House of Delegates until new House of Delegates members are sworn in under constitutional lines in 2024,” the amended complaint states.
Jeff Thomas argues in his amended lawsuit that his home district in the City of Richmond, District 71, is overpopulated and results in a 39% population deviation compared to the smallest House district. The amended complaint states that the districts Rev. Thomas and Thompson live and vote in are even more underrepresented.
According to the 2020 Census, the population of the smallest 2011 Virginia House district was 67,404. That figure is far below the ideal district size under the new census (86,314) and the district with the largest population (130,192), the amended lawsuit from Jeff Thomas states.
The home district of Rev. Thomas has a population of 101,629 and Thompson’s has 104,692 — according to the lawsuit. Both those numbers are over a 50% population deviation from the smallest district and far above the 10% threshold set by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Thomson.
On June 13, a federal judge agreed to an expedited schedule for Jeff Thomas’ lawsuit after accusing the state of using “stall tactics” to hold up a decision on Goldman’s standing.
The amended lawsuit filed Thursday calls for primary elections to be held on or before Sept. 13, 2022, and to hold the state House elections on Nov. 8, 2022, when the congressional midterms will be held.
If Jeff Thomas prevails in court and gets through potential appeals, Virginia would have House of Delegates elections three years in a row.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.