CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court will not change the recently redrawn House of Delegates and state Senate district.
In an order issued Wednesday afternoon, the Court voted 5-0 not to change the state Senate districts. The Justices voted 4-1 not to change the House districts. Justice Brent Benjamin dissented on the House ruling and likely will file a dissenting opinion soon.
Five separate lawsuits alleged the Legislature was trying to gerrymander districts when lawmakers drew new district lines, which is done every 10 years following U.S. Census figures. Two of the suits were directed at the Senate plans, while the other three took aim at House redistricting maps. Arguments took place Nov. 17.
House Speaker Rick Thompson was pleased with the quick decision.
"I would like to thank the members of the Court for full consideration of the House of Delegates redistricting cases and a quick decision that I am pleased upholds the constitutionality of the redistricting process," Thompson, D-Wayne, said.
House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, who also was chairman of the House Committee on Redistricting, also was happy.
"I am very pleased that the hard work of the Redistricting Committee members, of all House members, was validated by the Court's ruling," Boggs said. "Operating under the legal and constitutional parameters set before us, House members reached out to the people in their communities, sought feedback and did their level best to ensure that districts were drawn to serve constituents in their regions.
"This Court's ruling underscores what we have said all along: We followed the law and the result was a constitutionally sound redistricting plan."
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant also was pleased with the quick return.
"I am happy that the Supreme Court issued a ruling so quickly," she said. "We had asked for a decision by Dec. 1 because election officials are facing some very pressing deadlines. This decision removes any uncertainty election officials may have had regarding redistricting. County clerks will have to notify voters of any changes that affect them, and by law that must be done in a matter of weeks.
"This case clearly illustrates how our three branches of government work: The legislative branch crafts and passes the laws, the executive branch puts those laws into place, and if a citizen wants to challenge any law they can petition the judicial branch."
Wednesday's ruling came on the final day of the Supreme Court's fall term. Justice Thomas McHugh will write the full opinion when it is released later.
There still is yet another lawsuit pending in federal court regarding the redrawing of U.S. House of Representatives districts.