WASHINGTON -- Virginians will elect members of the House of Delegates this year using a map seen as favorable to Democrats as a result of a ruling Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The justices let stand a lower court decision putting the new map in place, saying the Republican-controlled state House did not have a right to represent the state's interests in an appeal to the Supreme Court. The state could have decided to bring the case but did not, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote.
The case stemmed from a map drawn by Republican lawmakers in 2011, after the last census, and used in the four elections since. Democratic voters sued in 2014, accusing Republicans of packing black voters into certain districts to make surrounding ones whiter and more Republican.
A lower court ruled 2-1 last year that the previous map drawn by lawmakers improperly factored race into drawing 11 of the 100 House districts. After lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on a redistricting plan, the lower court chose a new map from a series of proposals submitted by a special master.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, a Democrat, called the ruling a "big win for democracy in Virginia."
"It's unfortunate that House Republicans wasted millions of taxpayer dollars and months of litigation in a futile effort to protect racially gerrymandered districts," he said in a statement.
The lawsuit challenging the original House lines was backed by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The group targets elections for governors and state legislators, court cases or ballot initiative to give Democrats more control during the next round of congressional redistricting after the 2020 Census.
"With a new, fair map in place, all Virginians will now — finally — have the opportunity this fall to elect a House of Delegates that actually represents the will of the people," Holder said in a statement.
House Republicans said they are disappointed by the ruling and criticized the "shadowy organization funded by out-of-state interests" that funded the lawsuit. But Republicans said they still expect to maintain their majority based on their track record of "common sense" leadership.
"Today's ruling from SCOTUS will make victory in November even sweeter," the House GOP caucus tweeted, adding in a statement: "We are confident that voters will opt for the leadership and results we have delivered over chaos, embarrassment, and unchecked Democratic control of state government."
The case is Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill, 18-281.
Associated Press writer Alan Suderman contributed from Richmond, Virginia.
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