A three judge panel in D.C. has thrown out all Texas redistricing maps which were subject to challenge by the DOJ. It’s a monster 154-page decision, embedded below, so it will take time to figure out what was done to which districts.
Because Texas is a covered jurisdiction under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA), 42 U.S.C. § 1973, the Attorney General of the United States or a three-judge panel of this Court must approve, or “preclear,” any redistricting plan before it can take effect. Id. § 1973c(a). Texas chose not to seek administrative preclearance and instead seeks from this Court a declaratory judgment that its redistricting plans will neither have “the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, or [language minority group].” Id. The United States opposes preclearance of the redistricting plans for Texas’s congressional delegation and the State House of Representatives, but has no quarrel with the plan for the Texas Senate. Seven Intervenors raise a variety of challenges that collectively encompass all three plans. We conclude that Texas has failed to show that any of the redistricting plans merits preclearance.
Update – If I’m reading this correctly, there is no remedy imposed by the Court. National Journal notes the following:
This year’s elections are proceeding under different, interim maps developed by a separate federal court in San Antonio. Those maps will remain in place until, barring appeal, Texas will be forced to once again redraw their election maps prior to the 2014 elections.
The politics appear to be that the new, more favorable to GOP maps are on hold and will not even take effect in 2014 unless there is a reversal, via Dallas Morning News:
The redistricting battle for this election had already been decided, but this legal wrangling could have an effect on the next elections.
Texas Republican leaders want a map drawn by the Legislature last year to take effect, as it would give the GOP a bounty of seats. Democrats say the maps don’t reflect that the state’s population growth, which gained Texas four new U.S. House seats after the latest Census, was driven by booming populations of minorities, who tend to vote strongly Democratic.
More analysis at Election Law Blog.