Ten current and former Republican members of Congress asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to stop a new, judge-selected redistricting plan in Virginia or risk the state having to postpone congressional elections.
A lawyer for Reps. Rob Wittman, Robert W. Goodlatte, J. Randy Forbes, Morgan Griffith, Scott Rigell, Robert Hurt, Dave Brat and Barbara Comstock, as well as former members of Congress Eric Cantor and Frank R. Wolf, filed the petition.
The lawmakers' warned the justices of "electoral chaos," "mass voter confusion" and "the postponement of congressional general elections until after the nationwide November 8 Election Day in this presidential year" if the Supreme Court doesn't step in.
The petition went to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the justice assigned to handle such requests from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which includes Virginia. He can act on it alone or take it to the full court.
The group wants the Supreme Court to halt a federal three-judge panel's decision on Jan. 7 that selected a new congressional map and put it into effect for the 2016 elections. But the lawmakers said in their petition that they are worried that the three judges' map could itself be called into question by a case already before the Supreme Court and scheduled for a decision by the end of June, about four months before the election.
The High Court is considering the same lawmakers' challenge over the lines drawn for the majority-black congressional district held by Virginia Democrat Rep. Robert C. Scott. The case asks the justices to reverse a lower court ruling that found Scott’s district was an unconstitutional gerrymander.
The lawmakers want to prevent the redrawing of the district. Redrawing it could shift Democratic voters into nearby Republican-leaning districts and erode the lawmakers' political advantage.
One potential outcome of the Supreme Court ruling on Scott's district is that the state's 11 districts will be changed in the middle of an election cycle, the lawmakers said. They listed numerous possible problems if the new map goes into effect for 2016.
The lawmakers said the uncertainty of the outcome in the current Supreme Court case “inflicts a very significant current injury because it requires candidates in the five affected districts to run a two-front campaign” in both the new districts and the prior enacted districts for 2016.
The lawmakers also said a Supreme Court reversal after June 9 would postpone the elections because of federal requirements for absentee ballots and a reversal after June 14 would mean the state would have to nullify the outcome of primary elections already held.