Saturday, 26 May, 2018

Supreme Court to consider Texas redistricting

Supreme Court to consider Texas redistricting State of Texas: Supreme Court to hear challenge to Texas voting districts
Ellis Copeland | 25 April, 2018, 03:08

While no clear direction on the decision emerged from Tuesday's arguments, conservative members of the court seemed to side with Roberts in favor of the state in a case that could end up split along ideological lines.

The Supreme Court is now weighing two other gerrymandering cases, involving electoral maps drawn by Republicans in Wisconsin and Democrats in Maryland. The courts response could potentially turn Texas slightly bluer.

Added Justice Elena Kagan: "And what I'm concerned about is that if you're right, we're going to be hearing all of these districting cases not after the remedial stage but, instead, straight away after the liability stage". In September, the court on a 5-to-4 vote put that order on hold until it could hear the case. The groups suing the state say Republicans drew voting lines that take power away from minority voters.

Tuesday, the conservative justices focused on the unusual circumstances in the case and did not seem inclined to agree with the lower court, in the case that has been caught up in the courts for nearly a decade. "Indeed, when the district court invalidated its own maps previous year, the court gave the state a very small window of three days to convene the Legislature to start to draw new maps or else submit to yet another court-imposed plan". The dispute goes back to 2011, when Republicans in the state legislature drew Congressional and state legislative districts in a way created to favor GOP candidates, and to move as many Democrats as possible into a few other districts. When it did so, the district court emphasized that "this interim map is a result of preliminary determinations" and "is not a final ruling on the merits of any claims".

After a trial in 2017, the district court then invalidated two districts of Plan C235.

"If you're the Attorney General or - or the - the legislature in Texas and you want to take your best shot at a plan that will be accepted by the district court, wouldn't you take the plan that the district court drafted?" The court noted that "specific portions" of the 2011 plans that were found to be discriminatory or unconstitutional "continue unchanged".

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Central Texas was front and center in Washington, D.C. Tuesday as the Supreme Court looked at Congressional maps that run right through Austin, most of the lines surround Congressional District 35, which is now held by Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

Charles "Rocky" Rhodes, a professor of law at South Texas College of Law in Houston and an expert in constitutional law, says the Supreme Court will address both whether the maps drawn by the legislature intentionally discriminated against members of minority groups, and whether the maps had the effect of discriminating, based on the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.

Mr. Kneedler said the state deserved credit for trying to end the redistricting litigation by adopting the court-drawn map.

A victory for them could spell deeper trouble for Texas. The Supreme Court, at Texas' request, constrained just how much of the map the district court could redraw. Justice Samuel Alito agreed that the district court drew the interim plans after a "thorough analysis".

Texas argues that because the state used the court-drawn maps for the 2012 election, the 2011 redistricting plan that was found discriminatory was never implemented.

Those arguments revolved around the district court's findings of discriminatory intent in how Texas drew the maps. "We are fighting to defend millions of Texans impacted by racially gerrymandered maps", he said.

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