Redistricting Battle Continues in General Assembly

Aug 24, 2015

The General Assembly’s impasse over whether or not the Special Session on Redistricting is LEGALLY over shows no signs of abating.  The Senate adjourned last week thanks to a ruling by Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam and the votes of the chamber’s Democrats and one Republican—but the House of Delegates has still not adjourned. The bone of contention is how to interpret Article 4, section 6 of the Virginia Constitution.

The provision says: “Neither house shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn to another place, nor for more than three days.” GOP Senator Bill Stanley says the vote to adjourn defied both that and a federal court. 

Senate Democratic Lead Dick Saslaw
Credit Anne Marie Morgan

“We violated a court order which required us to redraw the maps.  We have no opportunity now to come back before September 1 and consider redrawing the 3rdcongressional district.”

But Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw says there are precedents for this, and the Assembly will not redraw the map. 

“I think this whole thing will wind up in the three-judge panel.  It’s what I said all along.”

And there’s another complication. Governor McAuliffe said he will reappoint Justice Jane Marum Roush to the state Supreme Court in mid-September when her term expires—which he can do only if lawmakers are not in session.  Republicans are now warning that would provide grounds for litigants to challenge her rulings since the Assembly did not elect her and, they believe, is not legally adjourned.

One option is to ask a court to settle the question of whether the General Assembly IS adjourned if one chamber has not adjourned.  Ironically, the dispute could ultimately go before the Virginia Supreme Court.