New SCOTUS Decision on Gerrymandering

Bethune-Hill v. Va. State Bd. of Elections

Today, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in favor of voters in Bethune-Hill v. Va. State Bd. of Elections, a case that challenged Virginia House of Delegates districts drawn in 2011 as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The Court dismissed the appeal for lack of standing. This case has been supported by the National Redistricting Foundation.

  • The Court’s decision in Bethune-Hill is an important victory for African-American voters in Virginia. Because of this case, Black voters in Virginia will, for the first time this decade, vote under a constitutional map.
  • Primary elections were already held under the new map just last week. With today’s decision, the Court ensures that the votes of all Virginians will continue to count equally.
  • History and Facts of the Case: In June 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia held that 11 of Virginia’s House of Delegates districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders and subsequently redrew the map.
  • Virginia’s attorney general did not appeal the district court’s holding, yet the Virginia House of Delegates endeavored–alone–to appeal the order calling for new maps.
  • Today, the Supreme Court dismissed that appeal, holding that the Virginia House of Delegates lacks standing–either on behalf of the State, or in its own right.
    • Under Virginia law, the authority and responsibility to represent the interests of the State in litigation rests exclusively with the Virginia attorney general. The House of Delegates may not stand in for the State.
    • The House of Delegates also lacks standing to appeal the district court’s order on its own right. As just one chamber of a bicameral legislature, the House cannot assert interests that belong to the legislature as a whole.
    • Notably, the Court held that the House of Delegates as an institution has no legal interest in the identity of its members, driving home that the House is “a representative body composed of members chosen by the people” and that the House itself is not injured by “[c]hanges to its membership brought about by the voting public.”
    • The Court leaves open the possibility that the House of Delegates might have standing in a redistricting case if it were to act together with the state Senate.