Today's Supreme Court decision has once again left Texas' legislative future up in the air. Just 11 days after oral arguments, the Court has issued a per curiam opinion rejecting interim redistricting maps drawn by a panel of federal judges.
The interim set of Texas redistricting maps affects voting for the State Legislature and the House of Representatives. They are believed to increase the power of Hispanic voters and help Democratic candidates.
This is contrary to the state-drawn maps, which favor Republicans.
The controversy surrounding Texas' redistricting maps started earlier this year, when the state redrew its electoral maps to reflect population growth. Texas is subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and is thus required to get "preclearance" for all voting-related changes.
The Justice Department challenged Texas' redistricting maps and refused to grant preclearance. At the same time, another group challenged the maps under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, claiming the new maps discriminated against Latinos and African-Americans.
The second case was being heard by a 3-judge panel in San Antonio. With no end in sight and primaries quickly approaching, that panel was tasked with creating an interim electoral map. That map -- at issue in this Supreme Court case -- was quite different from the one written by the state.
Today, the Supreme Court admonished the panel for failing to "take guidance from the state's recently enacted plan." The judges should not have ignored "the policy judgments [the plan] reflects."
Only the valid, non-discriminatory policy judgments, of course.
The 3-judge panel must now redraw the interim Texas redistricting maps by February 1. That is the deadline imposed by state officials, who have already moved primaries to April.
- Supreme Court Sends Interim Texas Maps to the Trash Heap (Wall Street Journal)
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 - Overview (FindLaw)
- Redistricting Woes Continue to Spread (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)