RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal judge on Monday agreed to an accelerated schedule for a new lawsuit that seeks to force members of Virginia's Republican-controlled House of Delegates to face unscheduled elections this fall.
House elections in 2021 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 old legislative boundaries.
A lawsuit filed by Democratic Party activist Paul Goldman a year ago was dismissed last week by a three-judge panel that found Goldman did not have standing as a voter or a potential candidate to file the lawsuit.
Days later, Jeff Thomas, an author who has written extensively about Virginia government and politics, filed a similar lawsuit. Thomas alleges that the 2021 House elections were invalid and asks the court to order new elections this year under the updated districts.
WRIC-TV reports that during a hearing Monday, U.S. District Court Judge David Novak ordered an expedited schedule for Thomas’ lawsuit and criticized former Attorney General Mark Herring's office for delaying the earlier lawsuit with appeals before the issue of Goldman's standing was decided.
“It is really just not appropriate, the way they handled this case,” Novak said of Herring’s office.
Novak has given the office of current Attorney General Jason Miyares until June 24 to file its planned motion to dismiss Thomas' lawsuit.
Novak acknowledged that the state’s possible argument of a dwindling timetable for new elections could be valid, and pointed out that Thomas’ case won’t be decided until after the June 21 Congressional primaries.
“I just want my voting rights back,” Thomas said after the hearing.