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New lawsuit seeks 2022 elections for Virginia House members

General Assembly -- Virginia State Capitol Generic Virginia Politics
Posted at 5:33 PM, Jun 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-10 12:38:42-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- An author who has written extensively about Virginia politics and government has filed a new lawsuit seeking to force all 100 members of the state's Republican-controlled House of Delegates to face an unscheduled election this year.

The lawsuit brought by author Jeff Thomas was filed Wednesday, two days after a three-judge panel dismissed a similar lawsuit filed a year ago by Democratic Party activist Paul Goldman. Goldman's lawsuit argued that House members elected for two-year terms in November 2021 must run again in 2022 under newly redrawn maps that properly align legislative districts with population shifts.

The 2021 elections were supposed to be the first held under constitutionally required redistricting based on the 2020 census. But because census results were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the state held elections under the old legislative boundaries. The new maps were not finalized until December, a month after the elections were held.

Goldman's lawsuit was dismissed on technical grounds. The judges ruled he did not have standing as a voter or a potential candidate.

In his lawsuit, Thomas argues that he and the other voters in his Richmond-area district have had their voting strength and political representation “unconstitutionally diluted or weakened” by the state's failure to complete redistricting before the 2021 elections.

Thomas also alleges that state election officials have "deliberately played games with the Court and the people’s rights for political reasons.”

“Plaintiff respectfully submits that there are no facts actually in dispute in this case ... and that the facts giving rise to this case would never have come to pass if there were attorneys independently representing the people beyond the reach of politics," Thomas states in the lawsuit.

Thomas also alleges that Attorney General Jason Miyares and former Attorney General Mark Herring have both attempted to “moot this matter through delay.”

Miyares has said previously that the 2021 elections were “legal and constitutional.”

“A federal court has already sided with our office in this matter and we will continue to aggressively defend the Constitutionality of the 2021 elections,” Miyares spokesperson Victoria LaCivita said in a statement Thursday.

After Goldman's lawsuit was dismissed, he said he was doubtful the court could rule on a new lawsuit in time for elections to be held in November. He said Thursday that he plans to appeal the dismissal to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Thomas asks the court for an expedited schedule to hear and decide the case.

“The current unconstitutional scheme benefits 100 incumbents and their political dependents," he wrote.

The House of Delegates is currently scheduled to hold elections in 2023.