On May 31, 2018, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that 11 legislative districts did not violate Article II § 6 of the Constitution of Virginia. The challengers to the districts argued that the legislative districts that were drawn in 2011 violated that state constitution because they were not composed of a “continuous and compact territory” and were not a “representation in proportion to the population of the district.” The challengers argued that the General Assembly in Virginia took partisan interests and “nonconstitutional considerations” when redrawing district lines and did not make a good faith effort in drawing proper compact districts.
The Court disagreed with the challengers and upheld the current district lines. The court held that the district lines were fairly debatable, and not clearly erroneous, arbitrary, or wholly unwarranted. The Virginia Supreme Court has ever established a “constitutionally required minimum compactness score for measuring the priority given to compactness in drawing legislative districts.” The Court noted that it cannot be the branch that decides the minimal standard for how compact a legislative district should be.
The Court’s decision not to make policy from the bench and decide how compact a district needs to be commended. The Virginia Supreme Court recognized that to make policy about how compact a district needs to be would be beyond its scope and stated that, “[the] judiciary has the authority and obligation to intervene when an abuse of that discretion is shown by a grave, palpable, and unreasonable deviation from the principles fixed by the Constitution.”