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Back to the Drawing Board: Reversal in Texas Redistricting Case

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Rick Perry may have exited the presidential race, but he scored a win for Texas Republicans in the Supreme Court; the Nine vacated orders to implement a court-designed Texas redistricting plan this morning, reports The Washington Post.

Texas was awarded four additional congressional seats after the 2010 Census. Tasked with redesigning the state’s legislative and congressional districts to reflect the adjusted population numbers, the Republican-controlled Texas legislature proposed a redistricting map that — no surprise — favored Republicans.

Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas redistricting maps aren't valid until the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals certifies that the proposed districts won't disenfranchise minority voters. Since Democrat-controlled Department of Justice (DOJ) is blocking D.C. Circuit approval by challenging the new Texas map, three federal judges in San Antonio had to create interim redistricting maps for the 2012 election. Republicans believed that the court-drawn map favored Democrats, and appealed the plan to the Supreme Court.

In a per curiam opinion, the Court sent the Texas redistricting Supreme Court challenge back to a San Antonio federal court, with instructions that the district court must give greater deference to the state legislature's redistricting plan for the state.

Texas had already delayed its primaries until April to accommodate the court challenge. In order to meet deadlines for an April election, the state told the Supreme Court that it needed a decision by February 1, reports The New York Times. The Justices heard arguments in the case on January 9, and issued an opinion just 11 days later, stating that the district court should have used the legislature's Texas redistricting maps as a starting point when creating its own redistricting plan.

"A district court should take guidance from the State's recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan. 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," the Court wrote.

The district court now must create a new redistricting plan before February 1 to avoid further delays in the state's elections.

The Texas redistricting plan decision wasn't the only election issue the Court addressed today. The Court also stayed a district court ruling blocking West Virginia's redistricting plan, reports SCOTUSblog. The Supreme Court will also hear the West Virginia redistricting challenge, Tennant v. Jefferson Cty. Comm'n.

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