Supreme Court blocks drawing new Texas congressional districts
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court issued a stay of a lower court ruling that would have required Texas to redraw two congressional districts that the court found unconstitutionally disenfranchised Latino and other minority voters.
The Supreme Court issued two orders blocking rulings from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas invalidating redistricting plans for two Congressional districts in Texas – held by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) and Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) – and the Texas House of Representatives.
Justice Samuel Alito had temporarily stayed the rulings to give the challengers time to respond and the court time to consider the state's request.
The court voted 5-4 on each order blocking the rulings. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said they would have denied the state's request.
The lower court had found the state intentionally tried to weaken the power of Hispanic voters by preserving congressional district held by Farenthold and had relied too heavily race in preserving the district held by Doggett.
How crazy is the application of the voting rights law? Texas is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. In one district, it didn't give race enough weight in drawing the lines. In another district, it gave race too much weight.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton had argued in the state's request for the stay that the order had left the state "in an impossible position" due to the Oct. 1 deadline to provide templates of voter-registration certificates to election officials in each of the state's 254 counties.
But the challengers say the Oct. 1, 2017 deadline that Texas claims "is no deadline at all."
"If the Court finds that this is an 'emergency' warranting taking the extraordinary step of exercising jurisdiction over the three-judge court's interlocutory order, then virtually every interlocutory order from a three-judge court in a redistricting case will now be appealable," attorneys for Texas resident Shannon Perez, the lead plaintiff in the case, argued in court briefs.
"Because the court does not yet have jurisdiction to hear this appeal, the temporary stay should be immediately dissolved and the three-judge court permitted to decide how and when to remedy the constitutional and statutory violations in the current redistricting plan[.]"
Crazy or not, I'm not sure the state's appeal will succeed. The problem is that enforcement of the Voting Rights Act is subjective and depends on "outcomes" rather than "intent."
This is not the case when district lines are gerrymandered for purely political reasons. Democrats in California and Illinois have jiggered district lines to guarantee that a large majority of districts in those states will vote Democrat. They have carved out safe districts for some congressmen from both parties (far more Democrats than Republicans).
This is politics as it has been practiced from the beginning of the republic. Today, psephologists use reams of data from the Census Bureau and other sources to precisely carve out districts that favor the party in power. But the concept is the same as it was when lines were first redrawn in 1800.
So how can the court tell the difference between Democrats giving themselves an advantage in certain districts in California by including more racial minorities and, like Texas, a disadvantage in other districts by excluding them?
When you figure that out, let me know.