We’re used to the Supreme Court splitting 5-4 along ideological lines. Justices nominated by Republican presidents tend to side together while justices nominated by Democrat presidents tend to side together as well.
But in a recent decision regarding gerrymandering in Virginia, the justices split 5-4 – which is expected – but how they split is causing some shock. The Hill reported that the 5-4 decision was a ruling against the Virginia House of Delegates in a win for state Democrats.
“In the 5-4 ruling, the justices found that the House didn’t have the standing to appeal a lower court ruling that found that the new district maps must be used ahead of the 2020 elections. Those new maps are already in use,” the Hill reported.
State Democrats had argued the new district maps were unlawful because they each had a population that was at least 55% black, meaning black voters (who tend to vote Democrat) were contained within certain districts. Democrats claimed this diminished the power of the black vote, while the Republican-held House of Delegates argued it strengthened their power.
A lower court didn’t buy it, so the House of Delegates appealed. Now the Supreme Court has shot down the argument.
“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion and was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Neil Gorsuch,” the Hill reported. “Justices Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh dissented.”
The majority ruling was supported by three liberal justices and two conservative justices, including Thomas, considered to be one of the most conservative justices on the court. The dissenting justices included three conservative justices and one liberal justice.
Responding to the decision, Democrats in the Virginia House called it “a major win for voting rights and civil rights in our Commonwealth,” criticizing Republicans for spending “millions of taxpayer dollars defending racial gerrymandering in a protracted legal battle – a battle in which they lacked legal standing.”
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, released a statement saying it was “unfortunate that House Republicans wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and months of litigation in a futile effort to protect racially gerrymandered districts.”
Herring came under fire earlier this year after he admitted to having worn blackface while in college.
Virginia House Democrats had redrawn the districts and those new districts were used in the Virginia primaries earlier this month.
The majority opinion stated that the House of Delegates lacked standing to “displace Virginia’s Attorney General as representative of the state.”
“We further hold that the House, as a single chamber of a bicameral legislature, has no standing to appeal the invalidation of the redistricting plan separately from the state of which it is a part,” Ginsburg wrote.
In his dissent, Alito wrote that “It seems obvious that any group consisting of members who must work together to achieve the group’s aims has a keen interest in the identity of its members, and it follows that the group also has a strong interest in how its members are selected,” referring to the House of Delegates.