- Associated Press - Friday, May 6, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia taxpayers have so far spent $3.7 million on private attorneys in three ongoing redistricting lawsuits, as well as a fourth case targeting the state’s voter identification law.

The costs are largely due to the hiring of private firms with expertise in niche areas of the law, as well as an unwillingness on behalf of the General Assembly’s Republican majority to have Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring represent them, The Daily Press reported (http://bit.ly/1TrRa6j).

Herring’s office has hired outside counsel to represent the State Board of Elections in two cases because it needs help dealing with the paperwork-heavy cases, the office said.

The costs will continue to grow for months, said House Speaker William Howell as he blamed what he called the plaintiffs’ partisan aims.

Attorneys with Democratic ties are trying to overturn Virginia’s voter ID law and redraw district lines that have helped bend Virginia elections toward the Republican majority that drew them.

State Democrats argue that the law requiring voters to show a photo ID is unconstitutional because it aims to suppress the voting rights of minorities and young people. Republican lawmakers who championed the legislation said it is intended to deter voter fraud.

The House and Senate both asked the attorney general’s office to hire outside counsel for them in the voter ID case.

Last year the attorney general’s office spent a total of about $14.8 million on outside counsel, according to a required annual report.

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Information from: Daily Press, http://www.dailypress.com/

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