Texas redistricting fight returns to the US Supreme Court

Elias Hubbard
April 24, 2018

"This case also highlights the need to reinstate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as a buffer against voter suppression and racial gerrymandering, which function as viruses to healthy democracies".

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in a consolidated case challenging Texas' House maps and congressional districts. Rhodes thinks the resolution of the case will come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy's vote, and could narrow the ruling of the lower courts while still disallowing some elements of Texas' disputed maps.

The plaintiffs argue that those maps continue to discriminate against Hispanic voters, who have ballooned in Texas in the intervening years.

The dispute goes back to 2011, when Republicans in the state legislature drew Congressional and state legislative districts in a way created to favor GOP candidates, and to move as many Democrats as possible into a few other districts. Every 10 years, the Texas Legislature draws new district maps to align with the latest census data. He says what Texas is doing is illegal.

In 2011, the Texas Legislature adopted a congressional map, but a federal district court blocked its use and ordered an interim redistricting plan for the 2012 elections. And it also involves the Texas state legislative map. The issues in the case, Abbott v. Perez, date back to 2010.

In 2013, when the legislature was back in session, lawmakers voted to adopt the temporary maps.

State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, is the policy chair for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, and is one of the plaintiffs in the case before the Supreme Court.

What do the map challengers argue?

But the ruling says the current map worked to "shore up the Anglo population of HD93", particularly as changes were being made to HD 90, prompting "intentional discrimination".

The Supreme Court took up the case on appeal from the state, but it still has to decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear it. Such a decision could affect the 2018 elections, but primaries were held in March and primary runoffs are on May 22, so it would more likely change the map for 2020. "Moreover, the district court's arbitrary approach to the Texas Legislature's actions disregards the deference afforded States on this fundamental question of State sovereignty", wrote Louisiana state Attorney General Jeff Landry and state Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Murrill.

A San Antonio three-judge panel pointed to this district and work done in 2013 by former state Rep. Lon Burnam, who was defeated by Ramon Romero the following year, to address issues in his district from the earlier drawing of maps.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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