RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Democratic activist behind the legal effort to force new Virginia House elections this year told a federal appeals court the state challenged his lawsuit on procedural grounds because they didn’t deny the merits of his argument.
But the Virginia attorney general’s office disputed that assertion Tuesday when the case went before the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Our position is that the 2021 election was perfectly constitutional and no remedy for any constitutional violation was required,” Virginia Solicitor General Andrew Ferguson said.
Paul Goldman, the former chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, sued the state in June 2021 arguing last year’s House of Delegates elections were held under unconstitutional districts.
Goldman’s lawsuit seeks to have all 100 state delegates serve one-year terms and require another round of elections under the redrawn districts that have been updated with new census data to reflect the population shifts over the last decade.
Then-Attorney General Mark Herring aimed to have the case dismissed in district court last year, but a judge agreed Goldman could bring his lawsuit forward against individual members of the State Board of Elections and Virginia’s Election Commissioner. The state appealed that decision, arguing Goldman did not have legal standing to sue the election officials.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard Goldman and Ferguson debate the merits of the case and the issue of whether Goldman had the standing to bring a lawsuit forward.
Goldman was asked by the judges about his lawsuit’s argument that he was injured by the state’s use of the district lines drawn in 2011 in last year’s House elections. Goldman asserted the vote in his home district wouldn’t match the vote in other House districts, giving certain areas more representation despite major population deviations between new districts.
“The citizens have the right to vote for a constitutionally sound legislature as soon as possible,” Goldman told the panel. “They denied me in 2021 and I don’t want to wait.”
Ferguson claimed Goldman’s argument lacked standing and implored the appeals court to vacate the lower court’s ruling allowing the case to move forward. Goldman urged the judges Tuesday to remand the case to the three-judge panel in the district court.
Calls have grown for Virginia to hold elections this year in all 100 House of Delegates districts using the new political maps approved by the state’s Supreme Court. The ACLU of Virginia, the League of Women Voters of Virginia, the Virginia NAACP and several of its local chapters have recently backed the push.
If Goldman prevails in court, the battle for control of the House of Delegates would be on the ballot three years in a row. If he were to fail, the next House elections using the new political maps would come in 2023.
Democrats had control of the Virginia House of Delegates before Republicans took back a majority in the 2021 elections.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.