The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear new arguments in a Virginia racial gerrymandering case that could reshape the House of Delegates, offering Republicans another chance to defend the electoral map that is in the process of being redrawn by a lower court.

In its order list released Tuesday morning, the Supreme Court said it would take up an appeal from the House GOP and asked the parties to file briefings on whether Republican leaders have standing to challenge the lower court's ruling. Though it appeared the 2019 House elections would take place under a redrawn map, the new Supreme Court proceedings raise the possibility that the existing map will still be in place for next year.

 

The Supreme Court has already heard the case once, ruling in 2017 that a district court used a flawed legal standard when it upheld the map as constitutional. After reconsidering the case with a narrower standard, the three-judge panel found that state lawmakers improperly prioritized race to draw African-American voters into 11 majority-minority districts.

A redrawn map could tilt partisan control of the House, where Republicans currently hold a 51-49 majority after losing 15 seats to Democrats in 2017.

 
 

The lower court ordered the General Assembly to draw a new map by Oct. 30, but it became clear that Republicans could not pass a map that Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, would sign. Last month, the court appointed its own expert to redraw the House map and set a deadline of March 28 for the enactment of a new map.

The precise schedule for the new Supreme Court proceedings was not immediately clear Tuesday, but the case is expected to be heard in the spring.

The Supreme Court order doesn't automatically halt the lower court's proceedings, but Republicans may ask for the process to be put on hold as their appeal continues. 

 
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