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Supreme Court Orders Texas to Replace Minority-Representative Electoral Maps with Ones That Favor Republicans

 
 
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The Supreme Court ruled Friday that Texas must throw out new electoral maps drawn to be more representative of minorities, and instead use a districting plan drafted by Republicans. The redistricting of Texas is especially important because, according to the Associated Press, the outcome of the Texas election could swing the entire House of Representatives.

The AP said:

Justices ordered the three-judge court in San Antonio to come up with new plans that pay more attention to maps created by Texas' Republican-dominated state Legislature. All four of the state's new congressional seats, and perhaps control of the House of Representative, could swing based on the outcome. 

But the Supreme Court did not compel the use of the state's maps in this year's elections, as Texas wanted. Only Justice Clarence Thomas said he would have gone that far.

Still, the outcome appeared to favor Republicans by instructing the judges to stick more closely to what the Legislature did, said election law expert Richard Hasen, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, law school. 

Remapping states to create districts more favorable to Republicans has been a trend this year, as states like Pennsylvania and Ohio pass new electoral maps that give Republicans the advantage. 

From the AP:

Controversy over the maps arose from redrawing political boundaries based on results of the 2010 census that found that Texas had added more than 4 million new residents, mostly Latinos and African-Americans, since 2000. The minority groups complained they were denied sufficient voting power by Republican lawmakers who sought to maximize GOP electoral gains in violation of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Texas will have 36 seats in the next Congress, a gain of four districts. A divided court in San Antonio drew maps that differed from the Legislature's efforts, giving Democrats a chance to prevail in three or four more congressional districts. Republicans now represent 23 of the 32 current districts.

The court said they ruled against the new map because the judges who drew it made changes where there was no allegation of discrimination. But the fight is ongoing:

The complicated legal fight over redistricting in Texas is playing out in three federal courts. In addition to the Supreme Court and federal court in San Antonio, a three-judge court in Washington is evaluating the state plans under a key provision of the Voting Rights Act that forces states, mainly in the South, with a history of discrimination in voting to get advance approval before making any changes to the way they conduct elections.

Even without the Washington court's approval, Texas said it should be able to use its own maps just for this year because time is running short before the primaries.

The minority groups, as well as the Obama administration, say such an outcome is strictly forbidden by the Voting Rights Act and would, in essence, eviscerate the law's most potent weapon, the advance approval requirement, also known as preclearance.

The justices chose not to allow the state maps to be used without preclearance. But Thomas, who earlier had said he would strike down the advance approval requirement, said Texas' "duly enacted redistricting plans should govern the upcoming elections."

Read more here

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at January 20, 2012, 5:49am