High court lets Virginia voting go ahead under redrawn map


"This is a big win for the health and safety of Virginians and our environment", Virginia state Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement, adding that "we are well within our rights as a state to decide that a risky, potentially unsafe activity like uranium mining is not for us".

But in a recent decision regarding gerrymandering in Virginia, the justices split 5-4 - which is expected - but how they split is causing some shock. Primaries were held last week in the new districts.

All 140 seats in the legislature are on the ballot, and the GOP now holds a three-seat edge in the House (51 to 48) and a bare majority in the Senate (20 to 19), with one vacant seat in each chamber.

In addition to the immediate impact the Supreme Court decision has on Virginia's fall elections, if state Democrats flip either or both the House and Senate, they will be positioned to oversee the next round of redistricting after the 2020 census.

"The House, we hold, lacks authority to displace Virginia's attorney general as representative of the state", Justice Ruth Bader Ginberg wrote in the majority opinion. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the Virginia House of Delegates lacked standing in the case, either to represent the State's interests or in its own right.

Justice Ginsburg carried the other 3 votes of the plurality and affirmed in the judgment, but would have affirmed only on the rationality that the state law in question does not conflict with the AEA because it regulates only private mining within the boundaries of a particular state.

"We further hold that the House, as a single chamber of a bicameral legislature, has no standing to appeal the invalidation of the redistricting plan separately from the state of which it is a part", Ginsburg wrote.

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Justice Alito filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh. The lower court ruled that 11 districts were the product of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering - that is, the legislators who drew the districts relied too heavily on race. Republican incumbents in six of those districts will find it more hard to defend their seats against Democratic challengers this November, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

Monday's decision cuts against the Trump administration, which argued in November that allowing the Virginia ban without reviewing the state's goal would amount to "giving states a roadmap for undermining a multi-billion-dollar industry".

Despite that important distinction, it's more likely the opinion handed down by the court on Monday will be remembered for its other practical effect, which is to protect the House of Delegates district maps adopted in February by a three-judge panel.

After lawmakers were unable 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. The state has 26 house districts.

The lawsuit challenging the original House lines was backed by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. A new political map is being used for this year's state elections. A shadowy organization funded by out-of-state interests has cost the taxpayers millions to overturn a legislative map that passed in 2011 that passed with an overwhelming majority.

Lower courts ruled against Virginia Uranium, the owners of the deposit near Coles Hill, in southern Virginia's Pittsylvania County, and the case was dismissed.