High Court Weighs in on Texas Redistricting
After arguments that at times centered on whether a prospective Texas legislative district resembled an antler or an antenna, the U.S. Supreme Court spoke Friday on the status of Lone Star State’s political map. Sort of.
The justices ruled unanimously that a three-judge federal court in San Antonio “exceeded its mission” in rejecting new Congressional districts drawn by the Texas legislature and replacing them with its own, interim maps. The lower court’s maps favored minorities and Democrats; the Republican-led legislature’s maps, favor (surprise!) the GOP.
For those keeping score, that’s GOP: 1, Dems: 0. But the game is far from over. Friday’s losers are hoping that another three-judge federal panel in Washington, considering a related case, will rule that the Texas maps do not meet anti-discrimination standards laid out in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That would send the Texas redistricting process back to square one.
It gets better, or maybe I should say worse. While ruling that the San Antonio court overstepped its authority, the justices said they appreciated the challenge it faced in reviewing the maps. The San Antonio court should have stayed away from portions of the legislature’s plan that might be ruled in violation of the Voting Rights Act by the three-judge panel in DC, the justices said. The high court added that its San Antonio brethren should have been sparing in their use of Texas’ existing maps, as those almost surely violate the one-man, one-vote standard set by the Constitution, but overall should not have been completely independent of either the current maps or the legislature’s new proposal. The justices also seemed to reject claims that a “minority coalition district” drawn by the San Antonio court “emerged” and was not “pre-meditated.”
If I was a betting man (I am not), I’d wager that there won’t be too many dramatic changes to the original GOP maps once the smoke clears
A postscript: In case you were still wondering, while Justice Clarence Thomas as usual did not ask questions during oral arguments, he wrote a separate opinion to argue that the pre-clearance requirement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was no longer justified or needed to combat voting rights discrimination.