Politics

SCOTUS Reinstates Texas Legislative Map Lower Court Found Discriminatory

The U.S. Supreme Court stayed a lower court ruling late Tuesday that concluded nearly a dozen legislative district maps in Texas were the product of intentional racial discrimination.

The ruling ensures that new district maps will not be produced before the 2018 federal elections. The justices divided 5-4 in issuing the ruling.

A three-judge district court ruled in August that state lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities when crafting the current district map, concluding the legislature drew legislative lines which intentionally undercut the electoral power of Latinos and blacks. The districts implicated in the ruling are the 27th and 35th congressional districts and nine of the state’s 150 state legislature seats.

The stay will remain in effect until Texas files its appeal of the lower court ruling, which the justices are likely to take up.

In a somewhat unusual move, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan voted to register their dissent from the Court’s decision. Votes on orders of this nature are only made public at the request of the justices, indicating that the Court’s four Democratic appointees have serious misgiving about the decision.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the ruling.

“The Supreme Court confirmed what the rest of us already knew: Texas should be able to use maps in 2018 that the district court itself adopted in 2012 and Texas used in the last three election cycles,” Paxton said in a statement. “In 2012 the Supreme Court ordered the district court to adopt lawful maps, and we believe it did so. We are eager to proceed with this case in the high court.”

UC Irvine School of Law Professor Rick Hasen noted on his Election Law Blog that the ruling indicates that Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the Court’s swing vote in cases which divide along ideological lines, may be reluctant to countenance arguments in the Texas and Wisconsin gerrymandering cases often advanced by Democratic or civil rights groups.

“For those who expect Justice Kennedy to be a savior here—or in the Gill partisan gerrymandering case (where he also voted with the Court to stop an interim remedy in Wisconsin pending Supreme Court resolution)—this is one data point against that hope.”

Disclosure: The writer’s fiancee is employed by a firm involved in this litigation. 

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