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SCOTUS Blocks Order to Redraw Texas Voting Districts

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed an order that would have forced legislators to redraw two congressional districts in Texas, pending a decision about whether the boundaries discriminate against minorities.

Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. issued the one-page order in Abbott v. Perez, giving the plaintiffs until Sept. 5, 2017, to respond. Meanwhile, the Court will review next session a lower court decision that said Texas lawmakers "intentionally deprived" voters in "an impermissible racial gerrymander."

"The Court concludes that the racially discriminatory intent and effects that it previously found in the 2011 plans carry over into the 2013 plans where those district lines remain unchanged," Judge Xavier Rodriguez wrote two weeks earlier.

'Taint' of Discrimination

Rodriguez's 107-page opinion ordered Texas lawmakers to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections. A three-judge panel had reviewed the district boundaries in 2011 and drew temporary maps ahead of the 2012 elections.

But after a subsequent legal challenge, the same court concluded the legislature "engaged in no deliberative process to remove any such taint and intentionally furthered and continued the existing discrimination in the plans." It underscores a problem that has challenged Texans for generations.

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas is becoming less white each day. The changing demographic creates headaches for Republicans because Hispanic and black voters are predominantly Democrats.

'Unnecessary Confusion'

Minority and civil rights groups that sued the state celebrated the lower court decision, but the state petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for relief.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the High Court to stay the order regarding Congressional Districts 27 and 35. Those maps stretch from central Texas to the Gulf of Mexico and along a path from Austin to San Antonio.

"The maps are lawful and constitutional, and a stay is vital to avoiding unnecessary election confusion while the Supreme Court reviews this case," Paxton said.

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