Local legislators see Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s decision to allow the State Board of Elections to appeal a court decision on redistricting as positive.
"I don’t think that anyone believed that the decision of a Circuit Court judge would be allowed to stand without an appeal,” said Delegate Kris Amundson (D-44). “I think that the governor has made his position clear that he believes that the court ruling was correct but it can only be good for all Virginians for the higher court to take a look at this.”
The Circuit Court judge in Salem, Virginia, ruled that the redistricting plan that was approved by the General Assembly in 2001 was unconstitutional. “The court ruled that there was racial gerrymandering and I believe that there was,” Amundson said.
Warner was angry with Attorney General Jerry Kilgore for announcing that Kilgore planned to appeal before consulting with Warner. The governor had asked for a meeting with Kilgore but Kilgore cancelled it late last week. Warner met with legal scholars over the weekend and decided that it was proper for the Board of Elections to go forward with the appeal but with outside counsel. He explained his rationale in a statement.
“Many Virginians, including many in my own party, believe that no further appeal is needed,” Warner said. “I understand that position. However, this is a time to seek a speedy resolution to the appeals process. While I am disappointed that the attorney general and I could not agree on representation in this case, fundamental issues such as this one deserve a fair and open hearing without political or partisan maneuvering.”
Delegate Brian Moran (D-46) said that Warner’s position is stronger than Kilgore’s.
“For the attorney general to continue to represent members of the General Assembly when these members may not even have standing is a rather tenuous legal position to take,” Moran said. “I believe that the Court’s decision was well reasoned and I believe that it will be upheld. I do think it is prudent for the governor to allow the Board of Elections to go forward with the appeal, however.”
Delegate Marian Van Landingham (D-45 agreed. “It certainly will be a good thing for the Supreme Court to take a look at this decision,” she said. “We have said all along that these districts are unconstitutional and I think that our contention will be validated.”
The state will request for an expedited process because if the ruling is upheld, a new plan will have to be redrawn and primaries and a general election held by November of this year.
“We have time to get this done if we have a decision by mid- summer,” Van Landingham said. “However, like last year, we will have to move the primaries from June to August or September. Time is of the essence, however, because we could have a plan that the governor vetoes and then we will be back where we started.”
Warner has said that it is time, perhaps, to look at another, more bipartisan manner in which to redistrict. “I think he’s right,” Van Landingham said. “I certainly did not agree with everything that the Democrats did in 1990 and 1991 with redistricting and I don’t agree with what the Republicans did last year. If we had some sort of bipartisan commission, perhaps we would come up with a plan that is fairer to all concerned. As an incumbent, I certainly don’t want to make it harder on myself, but I do think that we have to reduce the politicization of this process as much as we can.”