RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A three-judge panel has dismissed a Democratic activist’s bid to force Virginia House elections this year, ruling he lacks legal standing as a voter and potential candidate nearly a year after he initially filed the lawsuit.
Paul Goldman, the former chairman of the Virginia Democratic Party, filed a lawsuit last June in the Eastern District of Virginia that aimed to force House elections this year using the new legislative districts approved by the state’s Supreme Court.
The lawsuit alleged 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.
Goldman’s argument that he had legal standing to sue as a voter and a prospective candidate faced challenges in court from Virginia’s last two attorney generals, Republican Jason Miyares and Democrat Mark Herring.
A three-judge panel — U.S. District Judge David J. Novak, U.S. Circuit Judge Stephanie D. Thacker, and U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson — ruled on June 6 that Goldman lacks standing as a voter and as a potential House of Delegates candidate.
The panel accepted Goldman’s sworn statement asserting he voted in the 2021 House of Delegates elections, which is required to argue having legal standing as a voter, despite him not sharing proof that he did.
In the panel’s order, Novak writes that Goldman’s argument for legal standing as a voter falls short because his home district was overrepresented and his vote was not diluted as a result.
“Assuming that he did vote in the 2021 House of Delegates general election, Plaintiff has nonetheless failed to demonstrate a cognizable injury as a voter,” the order states. “In particular, he has not shown that he has suffered individualized disadvantage due to residing in an underrepresented House of Delegates District.”
The order asserts that even with the maximum percentage variance between the largest and smallest districts exceeding 10%, which Goldman argued is above the constitutional limit, the deviation does not grant a plaintiff standing to sue.
The panel ruled Goldman’s case as a prospective candidate fails because he replicates the theory used in the argument for standing as a voter.
“Plaintiff argues, both as a candidate and a voter, that holding the 2021 House of Delegates election using old electoral maps violated the Fourteenth Amendment, and that Defendants must call an off-cycle House of Delegates election in 2022 under the newly drawn maps to remedy the violation,” the order states. “However, Plaintiff has no legally cognizable interest in representing a particular House of Delegates District as a candidate. Therefore, he lacks standing to pursue a malapportionment claim on that ground.”
Goldman told 8News on Monday that he’s “mulling” an appeal, but didn’t appear hopeful with just months until the midterms. He said he believes a court would have to order new elections by July 1, a slim prospect due to potential appeals from the state.
“They ruled I’m not the guy to sue, I think I am, but even if I win, if you can’t get House elections this year, what have you won,” Goldman said in a phone interview. “The goal isn’t to just get standing, it’s to have elections in November.”
In his official statement, Goldman said he has respect for the court but “the ruling in effect slashes the right to equal representation in the state legislature as required by the one person one vote principle far worse than any case issued in the last 58 years.”
“The 2021 Virginia elections were legal and constitutional. Record numbers of Virginians went to the polls to vote and had their voices heard,” Attorney General Miyares said in a statement. “I’m glad that the court agreed with my office, that there is no more uncertainty for voters and legislators, and that we were able to protect the sanctity of our 2021 elections.”
With Virginia’s congressional primaries set for June 21 and the midterms coming in November, the window for House of Delegates elections this year is dwindling. But the panel noted that other voters could argue they have standing to sue for another round of House elections.
“Voters who live in districts with populations larger than the ideal district likely have standing, because they are underrepresented when compared to the ideal,” the court’s order reads.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.