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 centered around the legality of the Virginia General Assembly's redistricting criteria statute (Va. Code Ann. § 24.2-304.04), which was enacted in 2020 as the Virginia Redistricting Commission constitutional amendments (Va. Const. art. II, §§ 6, 6-A) was being submitted to Virginia voters for adoption. The petitioners alleged the criteria statute was unconstitutional for two separate reasons. First, because the redistricting commission constitutional amendment included criteria and standards for redrawing congressional and legislative districts (art. II, § 6), the General Assembly lacked the authority to enact a statute imposing additional redistricting criteria upon the commission, a move that the petitioners claimed was designed to circumvent the amendment's purpose and effect. Second, the petitioners alleged several of the statutory criteria violated state and federal constitutional provisions. Specifically, they alleged that the criteria requiring the reallocation of incarcerated persons to their prior home addresses for redistricting purposes would result in districts being drawn with substantially unequal populations in violation of the Virginia Constitution's equal populations provision (art. II, § 6) and the federal Equal Protection Clause (14th Amendment); that the criteria establishing protections for, and standards for evaluating violations of, minority voting power violated the Virginia Constitution's anti-discrimination provision (art. I, § 11) and went beyond the scope of the analogous federal Voting Rights Act; and that the criteria prohibiting partisan gerrymandering and further defining "compact" and "contiguous" were invalid as they went beyond the criteria stated in and required by the redistricting commission amendments, as adopted. Petitioners requested that the Court issue a writ of mandamus requiring the Virginia Redistricting Commission to follow only the redistricting criteria stated in article II, § 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 the petitioners were not entitled to the types of relief they requested. The Court explained 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 stated 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 was constitutionally limited, and thus could not be granted.


Supreme Court of Virginia - No. 210770