Court Battles

Supreme Court rules for Texas in redistricting case

Greg Nash

The Supreme Court on Monday largely ruled in favor of Texas, reviving congressional and legislative districts that were struck down by a lower court for diluting the votes of black and Hispanic voters.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices said there isn’t enough evidence to prove that state Republicans acted in bad faith and engaged in intentional discrimination when it adopted new maps in 2013 for two congressional districts and several legislative districts.

But the court said the lower court was correct in ruling that one legislative district was a racial gerrymander.


The court’s decision revives the state’s 27th Congressional District, formerly held by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R) and its 35th District district held by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D).

The dispute in these two consolidated cases stems from the state’s 2011 redistricting plan, which Republican officials drew after the 2010 census showed the Texas population had grown by 4.2 new people, 90 percent of whom were minorities.

The maps were challenged before they ever went into effect. While the map was being litigated, a district court drew a remedial plan for the 2012 elections. The Supreme Court, however, found the district court had exceeded its mission and ordered the court to create a new plan using the 2011 map as its starting point.

Texas ultimately adopted that remedial plan as its redistricting map in 2013. 

The challengers argued that Congressional District 27 and 35 were left in the “exact same configuration” as the 2011 maps that were ultimately struck down by a lower court in 2017.

Justice Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, which Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch joined. 

In finding that Republican officials had relied too heavily on race in preserving Congressional Districts 35 and intentionally tried to weaken the power of Hispanic voters by preserving the Congressional District 27, Alito said the court based its ruling on flawed analysis.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor filed a scathing dissenting opinion, which Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan joined. 

She said the majority went out of its way to allow Texas to use maps that a lower court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps. 

“It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas — despite constituting a majority of the population within the State — will continue to be underrepresented in the political process,” she said.

“Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will.”

Updated at 12:37 p.m. 

Tags Blake Farenthold gerrymander Lloyd Doggett Redistricting Supreme Court Texas

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