In less than two weeks after hearing arguments, on Friday the Supreme Court instructed a lower court in Texas to take another look at election maps it had drawn in place of competing maps from the Texas Legislature.
The two competing set of maps set out the boundaries of election districts in Texas for the State Legislature and the House of Representatives on the basis of the most recent 10-year census. One set of maps was drawn by the Legislature, which is currently controlled by Republicans. Not surprisingly, those maps were gerrymandered to favor Republican candidates.
But another set of maps was drawn by a special three-judge federal court in San Antonio once the Republican maps were rejected. The maps drawn by the courts increases the voting power of Latino voters and seems to help Democratic candidates.
Officials in Texas had asked the Supreme Court to block the judge-drawn maps, arguing they did not give enough deference to the Legislature. The justices agreed, holding the lower court had not paid enough deference to the Legislature’s choices and had improperly substituted its own values for those of elected officials.
Resolution of the boundaries will impact as many as four seats to the House of Representatives. Primaries in Texas have already been moved back to April to try and give this matter enough time to be resolved.
Because Texas is one of the states with a history on intentional voter discrimination against minorities, it falls under the jurisdiction of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That means these proposed changes also need approval from either the Department of Justice or a special court in Washington. That approval has not yet come and is not likely given the lengths to which Republicans went to try and increase their hold on power in the state.
That means the state of Texas and the redistricting panel must move quickly to create and adopt a redistricting plan that meets the federal preclearance mandate and can pass in the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature. And that means this fight is far from over.
Photo from hjl via flickr.