On August 13, 2021, a group of registered Virginia voters and a Virginia State Senator filed a petition with the Virginia Supreme Court, seeking a writ of mandamus directed to the Virginia Redistricting Commission. The petitioners' action centers around the legality of the Virginia General Assembly's redistricting criteria statute (Va. Code Ann. Section 24.2-304.04) which was enacted in 2020 as the Virginia Redistricting Commission constitutional amendments (Va. Const. art. II, Sections 6, 6-A) was being submitted to Virginia voters for adoption. The petitioners allege that the criteria statute is unconstitutional for two separate reasons. First, because the redistricting commission constitutional amendment included criteria and standards for redrawing congressional and legislative districts (art. II, Section 6), the General Assembly lacked the authority to enact a statute imposing additional criteria upon the commission when redistricting, a move that the petitioners claim was designed to circumvent the amendment's purpose and effect. Second, the petitioners allege that several of the statutory criteria violate state and federal constitutional provisions. Specifically, they allege that the criteria requiring the reallocation of incarcerated persons to their prior home addresses for redistricting purposes will result in districts being drawn with substantially unequal populations in violation of the Virginia Constitution's equal populations provision (art. II, Section 6) and the federal Equal Protection Clause (14th Amendment); that the criteria establishing protections for, and standards for evaluating violations of, minority voting power violate the Virginia Constitution's anti-discrimination provision (art. I, Section 11) and go beyond the scope of the analogous federal Voting Rights Act; and that the criteria prohibiting partisan gerrymandering and further defining "compact" and "contiguous" are invalid as they go beyond the criteria stated in and required by the redistricting commission amendments, as adopted. Petitioners are requesting that the court issue a writ of mandamus requiring the Virginia Redistricting Commission to follow only the redistricting criteria stated in article II, section 6 when conducting the 2021 redistricting process and a permanent injunction prohibiting the respondents from implementing the statutory criteria in future redistricting processes.

On September 22, 2021, the court issued an order dismissing the petition on the grounds that the petitioners were not entitled to the types of relief they requested. The court explained that a writ of mandamus is only appropriate when seeking to compel a party to perform an action they failed or refused to undertake, neither of which were applicable to the Commission in this case. Similarly, the court found that a writ of prohibition, which operates to restrain another court or judicial body from excessing the limits of their judicial authority, was not applicable to this case either. Finally, the court noted that in an original jurisdiction action such as this, the court's authority to issue a permanent injunction is constitutionally limited, and thus could not be granted.


Supreme Court of Virginia - No. 210770