The Supreme Court on Friday ordered a Texas court to take a renewed look at the redistricting maps drawn by the state Legislature, saying the court had gone too far in enacting its own plan.
The unanimous decision represented a partial victory for Republicans, but plunged the once-per-decade map-drawing process back into chaos ahead of the state's rapidly approaching congressional primaries.
In an unsigned decision, the court ruled that a panel of federal judges who drew their own alternative to the GOP-controlled Legislature's initial map deviated too far from what state lawmakers had originally intended.
“A district court should take guidance from the state’s recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan,” the Supreme Court’s decision read. “That plan reflects the state’s policy judgments on where to place new districts and how to shift existing ones in response to massive population growth.”
Judges had intervened and drafted their own map as an alternative to a Republican proposal that Democrats charged was a gross overstep. Hispanic and Democrat-friendly groups filed suit, claiming the growth in population of minorities in Texas over the past decade was insufficiently reflected in the GOP map. Under the Voting Rights Act, states with a history of discrimination must have their maps approved by the Department of Justice, which rejected this map.
A second map was then drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio, which offered Democrats a better chance to improve their representation in the state's congressional delegation, and paid deference to the state’s booming Hispanic population.
But officials in Texas asked the Supreme Court to block the judge-drawn maps, saying they unfairly dismissed legitimate portions of the Legislature’s maps, and on Friday, the Supreme Court agreed.
The decision increased the likelihood that a map favorable to Republicans will ultimately be put in place.
“It is not a stretch to say that Texas’ enacted maps are riddled with legal deficiencies and we look forward to drawing a better interim map now that we know the San Antonio court can rely on the evidence presented at trial that Texas’ maps are discriminatory, both in purpose and effect," said Trey Martinez Fisher, a state lawmaker and head of the Texas Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the lead plaintiff in a case challenging the map.
Texas’s primaries have been pushed back to April, as a handful of House seats could be affected by the redistricting. Texas gained four new congressional seats for the 2012 election.
- Josh Lederman contributed.