The Supreme Court on Monday will hear arguments over whether
federal judges overstepped their authority when they revised state
and congressional districts drawn by the Texas Legislature.
A bitter dispute over minority voting rights in Texas arrives at
the US Supreme Court on Monday where the justices must decide which
legislative districts will be used in upcoming elections.
At issue is whether federal judges in San Antonio overstepped
their authority when they took it upon themselves to redraw
congressional and state house election districts without any prior
judicial determination that maps drawn for that purpose by the Texas
Legislature were illegal or unconstitutional.
Texas officials object to using interim judge-drawn maps while
election districts established by the state Legislature remain tied
up in ongoing litigation.
With elections fast approaching, the Supreme Court is hearing on
an expedited basis three consolidated cases that look at whether the
judges' interim maps should be used or whether the judges should
have relied more on the maps drawn by the Legislature.
Meanwhile, a federal three-judge panel in Washington is set to
consider whether the original maps drawn by the Texas Legislature
should be given preclearance for use in the upcoming election - and
future elections - or whether there are parts of that must be
amended to comply with the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution.
Texas had been scheduled to conduct its primary election on so-
called Super Tuesday - March 6. But escalating legal battles have
forced state officials to push the vote date back to April 3.
Now, with the Supreme Court involved, even that date may be in
Importance of the case
The case is significant because how election districts are
apportioned can alter who is elected in each district. The case
involves disputed maps for election districts for the Texas state
Senate and House, and for members of Congress.
The election maps produced by the Republican-controlled Texas
Legislature favored Republican candidates. In contrast, the maps
drawn by the federal judges undercut many of those Republican
The legal case isn't about which party may or may not gain an
advantage in election district line-drawing. Politicians care about
that; judges should not. The central issue for the courts is whether
maps drawn by state lawmakers comply with the requirements of the
Voting Rights Act of 1965 and with constitutional guarantees of one
person, one vote.
Because Texas has a history of racial discrimination in
elections, the Voting Rights Act requires the state to obtain prior
approval from Washington before enacting any changes in its voting
process - including drawing new election districts.
Texas sought approval last summer, but that process has bogged
down. At the same time, several minority groups and candidates filed
lawsuits in San Antonio objecting to Texas' proposed new election
districts. The minority groups alleged that the newly drawn
districts seek to dilute the growing political clout of Latino
voters in Texas.
The minority groups asked the three-judge panel in San Antonio to
designate interim election maps to be used in lieu of the state's
maps as litigation over redistricting is sorted out in the courts. …