Texas’ Congressional and state legislative district maps have been bouncing around the federal court system for months. Tuesday, the Supreme Court blocked an order from the lower court that required new maps redrawn.
Redrawing maps would create new districts and ultimately favor Democrats in upcoming elections.
At the heart of the district maps battle are allegations that maps drawn after the 2010 census were essentially racist and thus unconstitutional and contradictory to the Voting Rights Act.
The New York Times has the breakdown:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked rulings from a federal court in Texas that had called for revisions to congressional and state legislative districts in the state after the court found that the districts violated the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court’s brief order, in a long-running dispute over legislative maps drawn after the 2010 census, made it more likely that the 2018 election will be held using maps rejected by a three-judge panel of the Federal District Court for the Western District of Texas, in San Antonio. The Supreme Court’s order will remain in place while it considers the state’s appeal.
The vote was 5 to 4 and divided along ideological lines, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority.
The court in San Antonio had ruled that a congressional district including Corpus Christi denied Hispanic voters “their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” The court rejected a second congressional district stretching from San Antonio to Austin, saying that race had been the primary factor in drawing it.
In a separate decision, the court found similar flaws in several state legislative districts.
There was an odd wrinkle in the case: The Texas court itself had for the most part endorsed the maps in 2012, after the Supreme Court rejected earlier ones and told the court to try again. The 2012 maps, the panel later said, had been considered in haste in advance of pending elections. In 2013, the Texas Legislature decided not to draw new maps and instead mostly adopted the one drawn by the court in San Antonio.
So what’s next? Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog explain:
In two orders, with all of the conservative Republican-appointed Justices voting in favor and all the liberal Democratic-appointed Justices opposed, the Supreme Court put on hold a lower court order for Texas to redraw congressional and state house district lines to cure voting rights problems. The lower court had found that some of the districts were drawn with a racially discriminatory intent, some were drawn with a racially discriminatory effect, and some were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Had the lower court order been put into effect, there would have been some new districts (which would have benefitted Democratic and minority voters in Texas) for the 2018 elections. Now, it is unlikely that such a remedy could be in place before 2020, the last elections before the next round of redistricting.
Texas’s request was early—the lower court had not even drawn the district lines yet, and so the Supreme Court’s involvement now is somewhat aggressive (on the other hand, if the 5 Justice majority knew where it was going to go, why prolong the uncertainty?).
What this means is that the 5 conservative Justices, including Justice Kennedy, are sufficiently confident that Texas could win this case (or that the plaintiffs won’t suffer that much harm to have another election under unconstitutional and illegal lines) to grant this stay.
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