Leahy: Miyares Has a Rare Opportunity to Claim the Mantle of Voting Rights Champion from Democrats

The message from U.S. District Court Judge David Novak was crystal clear: Ex-attorney general Mark R. Herring’s office didn’t take Paul Goldman’s lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the 2021 House of Delegates elections seriously.

As a result, Herring’s office left his successor, Jason Miyares (R), a case that “was totally handled wrong.”

That’s a polite way of saying Herring botched it. But Novak wasn’t finished. As the Virginia Mercury’s Graham Moomaw reported:

Novak said … the state failed to adequately respond to Goldman’s legal arguments and threw the case into procedural confusion … adding, “we lost five months because of some not very good decision-making” from the previous attorney general’s office.

The bad decisions started early, when Herring ignored a request from then-Del. Lee J. Carter (D-Manassas) for a formal opinion from Herring’s office on the constitutional issues surrounding the 2021 House elections. The question of why Carter’s letter was ignored has never been answered on the record.

But there are other, bigger questions demanding answers. Why were Democrats across Capitol Square largely silent on the issue? Or more to the point: Were Democrats more concerned about defending their offices than they were about protecting voting rights?

On that score, the Rev. Michelle Thomas, president of the Loudoun County NAACP, has a few choice words to share with the Democratic lawmakers who sat on their hands while Herring was fumbling his way through the court system. In a letter seeking to join Goldman’s suit Thomas wrote:

The 2021 Virginia House of Delegates elections suppressed the votes, diluted the votes and diminished the representation of our 637 branch members due to the use of outdated maps in the 2021 House of Delegates election.

Thomas’ remedy echoes the one Goldman has been seeking all along and that Virginia used when it ran into redistricting problems in the early 1980s:

For the re-enfranchisement of African American voters, and the equal protection representation of all Virginians, the NAACP Loudoun Branch urge the court to order a Virginia House of Delegates election in 2022, under the newly-redistrict maps.

Judge Novak denied Thomas’s request to join the suit. But her group is still weighing its options.

Continue reading here.

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