Texas asks Supreme Court to intervene in redistricting battle

In June, the Supreme Court agreed to review a ruling by a three-judge federal district court striking down the redistricting plan that Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature adopted after the 2010 census. Today the state of Texas asked the Supreme Court to step into another redistricting dispute, this time a long-running battle over that state’s congressional redistricting plan: In an emergency filing, Texas officials urged the justices to put a federal district court’s order invalidating two districts in the current plan on hold while they appeal to the Supreme Court.

Much like the Wisconsin case, the Texas dispute centers on the state’s efforts to draw new maps after the 2010 census. In 2012, a federal district court adopted an interim redistricting plan for the Texas’ congressional districts after a 2011 plan enacted by the Texas legislature was challenged as violations of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. In 2013, the Texas legislature adopted that interim plan in its entirety, and the state’s governor signed it into law.

Earlier this month, however, the district court struck down two districts in the 2013 plan. Noting that the two districts remained the same as under the 2011 plan, it concluded that one of those districts intentionally diluted the votes of Hispanic residents, while the other focused too heavily on race. It indicated that it had only intended the 2013 plan to be used as “interim maps, given the severe time constraints it was operating under at the time of their adoption.” The district court gave Texas Governor Greg Abbott a choice: either call a special session of the legislature to come up with new maps or return to court on September 5 with experts and proposed plans for new maps.

The district court declined Texas’ request to put its order on hold while it appealed, so today the state asked the Supreme Court to step in. The district court’s order, the state argued, “alters the status quo and disrupts the State’s election procedures by forbidding Texas to use” the 2013 plan, even though it was in place for three earlier election cycles. “If repealing a purportedly discriminatory law in its entirety and replacing it with a law that has received the imprimatur of a federal court does not suffice to remove any lingering ‘taint’” from the 2011 plan, the state contended, “then it is difficult to imagine what could.”

The state’s filing is addressed to Justice Samuel Alito, who is responsible for emergency appeals from the 5th Circuit. Alito could act on the state’s request alone or – as is more common – refer the application to the full court. However, either Alito or the court is likely to order the challengers to respond to the state’s request; that request could come as soon as tonight.

This post was originally published at Howe on the Court.

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