Supreme Court Grapples With Texas Redistricting Case

Pauline Gross
April 25, 2018

Supporting the state, Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Edwin Kneedler said the state Legislature is entitled to a presumption that it acted in good faith when adopting the court map. Texas was, in effect, appealing the district court's request that it show up in court with proposals to fix its maps.

A decision in the case is expected near the end of the court's session in June.

Solicitor General Keller argued this morning that it would be absurd to hold that a court could find its own map tainted by racially discriminatory intent. The decennial Census would have created created additional districts where Latino candidates could have been viable options, but the state instead carved out districts safe for white candidates, the suit alleges. However, attorneys for Texas say they appealed to the High Court because the legal challenge at the lower court would prevent the state from using the maps in the 2018 elections. The lower court didn't issue an injunction, which would be the normal route for a case like this to move to the Supreme Court.

Attorney Allison J. Riggs, representing challengers to the legislative districts, agreed that the legislature's decision to adopt the interim, judge-drawn maps was because they were favorable to them, not because they were fair.

The lower court's ruling could be vacated and Texas' electoral maps would stay the same until they are next redrawn in 2021.

The Voting Rights Act also set up the practice of preclearance, a process in which jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices must gain federal approval to change voting practices or adopt new legislative maps.

Before that could happen, Texas went to the Supreme Court.

While the conservatives on the court engaged with this question a bit, they seemed eager to drill down on to the deeper questions in Texas' request.

Supreme Court Grapples With Texas Redistricting Case

"The double standard is painfully obvious: when the court draws the maps, they are lawful; when the Texas Legislature adopts the very same maps, somehow they are not", he said".

In 2012, the court in San Antonio imposed an interim map for the 2012 election.

The case comes after the state of Texas appealed a San Antonio District Court's ruling that decided that congressional and local district maps were gerrymandered in a way that discriminates against black and Latino voters.

"More importantly, it doesn't matter whether they wanted to end the litigation or not, it matters how they wanted to end the litigation", Riggs said. Roberts said there was a "strong" argument that the legislature adopted a court drawn plan, and asked if that didn't demonstrate "good faith" on the part of the law makers.

While it's possible the Court could order new maps be put in place in time for the general election, the timing of case makes it unlikely, according to the plaintiffs. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked. Texas has 36 U.S. House districts, 25 held by Republicans and 11 by Democrats.

NAACP Texas State Conference President and attorney, Gary Bledsoe, believes that the previous wins by the NAACP and its partners from the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), will be reinforced by the SCOTUS.

Hicks argued that in 2013 Texas knew, based on the 2012 elections, that the interim map had succeeded in what the 2011 map had intended.

If the Supreme Court sides with Texas, that gambit may prove to have been successful.

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