Supreme Court justices face tangled mess with Texas redistricting plan
Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments Monday over competing plans for redrawn legislative districts in Texas amid allegations the state Legislature was diluting Latino political power.
The Supreme Court struggled Monday to find a compromise solution to a legal dispute that has ensnared Texas in a prickly battle over newly-drawn election districts amid allegations that Latino political power is being intentionally diluted.Skip to next paragraph
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The justices agreed to hear the case last month on an expedited basis amid fast-approaching deadlines for the Texas primary on April 3.
The dispute arises in the context of two pending legal challenges to redrawn election districts passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in Austin. The new maps set the boundaries for the new districts in which candidates are seeking election to the Texas House, Texas Senate, and US Congress.
Because Texas has a history of discrimination in voting, the state must submit its new election maps to a three-judge federal court panel in Washington for approval before they can be used in an election. That panel is set to take up the issue on Jan. 17.
But in addition to that legal hurdle, the state is also defending a lawsuit by minority groups and candidates before a three-judge federal court panel in San Antonio. That suit challenges the state’s new redistricting plans because they allegedly discriminate against minority voters and candidates.
It is the combination of these two legal hurdles – the requirement for pre-approval in Washington and the civil rights lawsuit in San Antonio – that set the stage for the arguments Monday at the high court.
At the heart of the dispute before the court is a decision by two of the three San Antonio judges to draw up their own election maps in place of those enacted by the Texas Legislature. Texas is challenging the judge-drawn maps.
Arguing for Texas, Washington lawyer Paul Clement told the justices that the San Antonio judges exceeded their judicial authority when they took it upon themselves to draft their own election maps to be used on an interim basis in lieu of the state’s plan.
“This court from the very beginning of its reapportionment cases has emphasized the need to look for legislative guidance [when judges draft interim maps],” Mr. Clement said.