U.S. Supreme Court blocks redrawing Texas voting maps
September 12, 2017 Updated: September 13, 2017 12:06am
Voter ID requirements are posted outside a polling place on the University of Texas campus in Austin in this 2014 photo. The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday put on hold a lower court’s decision blocking the state from enforcing a controversial voter ID law the Legislature passed this year.
Voter ID requirements are posted outside a polling place on the…
AUSTIN – A divided U.S. Supreme Court blocked two lower court rulings late Tuesday that had required Texas to redraw certain congressional and state House districts after the lower courts ruled the district lines discriminate against minorities.
The 5-4 ruling almost surely means the 2018 elections will be conducted in the disputed congressional and legislative districts that federal judges have said were intentionally drawn to discriminate against Latino and African-American voters.
The justices gave no reasons in their one-paragraph statement granting a request from Texas that it not be forced to draw new districts until the Supreme Court reviewed the lower court’s decision.
But the court’s liberals signaled their unhappiness by noting they would not have agreed to Texas’ request.
The court’s intervention was a victory for Texas Republicans, who had drawn the districts. It disappointed civil rights groups, who had noted that even though growth in the state’s Hispanic population was the reason for additional congressional seats, none were drawn to favor minority candidates.
“I can’t say that I am pleased with this. I can’t say that I am surprised either,” said Jose Garza, counsel to the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. “At the end of the day it may all work out. Maybe it’s better to have this discriminatory plan in front of the court and have the state of Texas try to defend it sooner rather than later.”
The court was split over ideological lines, with liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan in the minority.
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who sought the stay, did not return a request for comment.
Chad Dunn, the Texas Democratic Party’s general counsel, said he believes the evidence of discriminatory intent is so strong, the Supreme Court will agree.
“Getting a final resolution to this matter, that has essentially been pending since 2011, is a step in the right direction,” he said.
One possibility is that the March elections are delayed. In 2012, the state was forced to postpone primary elections in the wake of legal challenges from civil rights groups and minority advocates to political maps drawn the year before.
Advocacy groups argue the maps in question intentionally dilute minorities’ voting power, by cramming them into a single district, or splitting them up across too many.
The state has been operating under temporary court-ordered maps drawn for the 2012 elections and adopted by the Legislature in 2013. This summer, a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio invalidated some of those districts, finding they violate the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
The panel ruled that Texas’ Congressional District 27, now held by Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, and District 35, now held by Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, were drawn with discriminatory intent aimed at diluting minorities’ voting strength.
Chronicle wire services contributed to this report.
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