Judge-drawn Texas redistricting map tossed out by Supreme Court
January 20th, 2012
10:28 AM ET
10 years ago

Judge-drawn Texas redistricting map tossed out by Supreme Court

Washington (CNN) - The U.S. Supreme Court has tossed out the Texas redistricting map for congressional and legislative seats drawn up a federal court, giving a partial victory to Republican lawmakers.

In an unsigned opinion issued just 11 days after holding oral arguments, the justices said a revised map that differed greatly from the one created by the Legislature used ambiguous standards.

"To the extent the (federal) District Court exceeded its mission to draw interim maps that do not violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act, and substituted its own concept of 'the collective public good' for the Texas Legislature's determination of which policies serve 'the interests of the citizens of Texas,' the (district) court erred," said the Supreme Court ruling Friday.

At issue are competing maps for the Texas Legislature and Congress - created first by Republican lawmakers that favored their political base and later by a federal judicial panel to give minorities greater voting power.

The court-drawn map was imposed after Democrats and minority groups in Texas challenged the original plan approved by the GOP-led Legislature.

The political stakes are huge: Texas gains four new congressional seats based on the newly completed census, and an expected high court ruling in coming weeks could help determine if Democrats can wrest control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans.

The legal stakes are just as important - creating standards courts must use when evaluating voting boundaries. This is the latest election-related dispute for the justices this year. Continuing, separate challenges to campaign spending laws and state voter identification laws will soon be presented to the court.

A federal court in San Antonio scheduled a February 1 hearing in response to the Supreme Court's decision, after which Texas' attorney general filed a motion urging swifter action in order to prevent a delay in primary elections scheduled for April 3.

According to a press release from state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office, February 1 is the "very latest" for a new redistricting map to be in place, for the primary to be held on time. The release claimed that "it does not appear that the court anticipates entering new interim redistricting plans by that date."

"In order to preserve the unified April 3, 2012, primary election date agreed to by the state's major political parties and ordered by this court, defendants respectfully request that this court ... enter an expedited scheduling order that will allow for entry of new interim redistricting plans by January 30, 2012," the attorney general's office said in its motion.

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Filed under: Supreme Court • Texas
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. Jack from Illinois

    This SCROTUS is going to do its best to ensure that political power reamins in the hands of the white christian Republican minority for as long as it can.

    And ignore the rights and expectations of the other 70% of us.

    January 20, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  2. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    us1776 –The Fascist Supreme Court strikes again. - Hitler and Mussolini would be so proud
    Skeptic - This is where the GOP has brains. It nominates Justices who will be always on its side whether it is right or wrong.
    Blame it all on Al Gore
    It was a 9-0 USSC decision, ie. the liberals on the court agreed. Please wipe the egg off your face before posting further.

    January 20, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  3. Jim

    That damned activist supreme court.

    We put Roberts and Alito on the bench specifically so they'd let us do what we want. What the H happened?

    January 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  4. nolimits3333

    Supreme Court upholds gerrymandering. Just one more reason to re-elect President Obama, so he can appoint some new justices.

    January 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  5. K3Citizen

    No matter how the district is divided, Texas still has the biggest idiot as governor. The citizens of Texs must like having low standards.

    January 20, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  6. John/kc

    This is how your party, if they have a one sided victory can redraw the voting boundaries to make sure they never lose again. This is how the communists get control. After getting in power, they vote to eliminate the opposition, much like the Texas republicans did. Thank goodness for the federal courts to try to at least make things fair. The boundaries of the voting districts should NEVER be determined by politicians.

    January 20, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  7. Satan

    The very reality that maps can be redrawn, reworked, litigated, argued, or appealed only further solidifies the point that you actually don't have rights. If you let lawmakers redraw maps, they will create maps that benefit their respective interests. If you let courts create maps, you take away the public voice. The system is a Catch-22 and completely illogical.

    I understand that redistricting is necessary in an imperfect system like the U.S. has to accomodate population shifts, but have you seen the shapes of some of these districts??? Why wouldn't you just expand a district circumferentially to accomodate more people? What difference does it make if they lean conservative or liberal? This is such a glaring flaw of how the American political system works. Why are districts redrawn to accomodate anyone? LOL

    Voting is supposed to be anonymous and unbiased (in theory), when you make these ridiculously shaped districts that CLEARLY are aimed at favoring a particular political party it completely invalidates any vote that gets cast. Just make districts larger to accomodate more voters, don't reshape them based on political demographics...which should be irrelevant.

    January 20, 2012 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. Sanity

    Skeptic, read the story. No dissents were mentioned, As you may know, Obama has appointed two Justices since he became President. Last week the SCOTUS also unanimously dismissed an Obama/Holder claim that churches cannot use religious persuation when hiring ministers.

    January 20, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  9. julnor

    First question, why are certain states being held to provisions that were enacted over 46 years ago? History is now ancient history and it would seem unfair to continue to single out these states.

    Second, while democrats see everything in terms of race, republicans were looking at party registration. If blacks and latinos would stop kowtowing to democrats their distribution between dem/indep/repub would change and the maps would change. This is about creating voting districts that favor a party, not a race, and that is perfectly acceptable based on the will of the people to Texas to elect republicans to their government.

    January 20, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    For all of the Google challenged here....
    The justices said the lower court had not paid enough deference to the Legislature’s choices and had improperly substituted its own values for those of elected officials.
    One set of maps was drawn by the Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. Those maps seem to favor Republican candidates. The other set was drawn by a special three-judge federal court in San Antonio, and it increases the voting power of Hispanic voters and seems to help Democratic candidates.
    So the court was trying to take over the job that is CLEARLY a legisaltive role and use race to guarantee hispanic seats.
    Sounds like liberal court activism based on race to me. How is that NOT racism? It appears if you are a white person in America these days, your rights are very precarious and can be eliminated at the whim of a few activist liberal judges.

    January 20, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  11. alan

    So, the crooked Texas GOP gerrymanders the voting districts to guarantee a win but deny the rightful electorate (us) the freedom to vote with confidence. We might as well be some Banana Republic with ballot stuffing and intimidation tactics...way to destroy the American ideals of fair play and democracy Texas GOP...more of the same from the party of NO

    January 20, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  12. Feds overstepping

    It seems like everyone is overstepping their authoirty here, including the posters. Republicans, like democrats, always try to draw maps to get more districts dominated by their voters. It doesn't matter the race, it just matters the polls. I get that. But I agree that the Feds need to make sure that when this happens that minority growth is considered. However, just starting from scratch and thinking that federal court completely trumps state rights is wrong.

    Shame on everyone.

    January 20, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. John

    Not sure this was a victory for anyone. First off, it was a unanimous opinion, meaning both the liberals and conservatives on SCOTUS agreed with it. So quit bashing SCOTUS as being biased towards the Republicans.
    However, it still leaves my state without defined Congressional districts...and it is getting close to February. Republicans wanted the Legislature's map reinstated - that didn't happen. So they didn't win. So now we have to wait for the judges to draw a new map, then wait while one party (or maybe both parties) appeal that map. I guess there is a chance this will all be done by November.

    January 20, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  14. Rustydog

    To the Victor go the Spoils. In this case, its Texas Republicans that are reaping the benefits of the boundaries they redrew in spite of protests from the minority party in the legislature. Yes, the population increase is, in large part due to an increase in the minority population, and Yes, the republicans are doing everything they can to prevent democrats from being elected to any of the newly created seats.

    Just remember that Texas, like several other southern states, have federal oversight precisely because of the type of shenanigans being played out in the State house. Grow up people and be fair! Otherwise, the legal battles go on and neither side may be happy with the result.

    January 20, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  15. J in Texas

    The GOP attempts to dilute and eliminate Hispanic votes with their Congressional 'Redistricting map and New Voter ID law approved by GOP majority in state legislature. Hispanics deserve to have their legal Congressional representation! Republicans had better enjoy their moment in the sun, it is coming to a end very, very soon! You will be in the minority and the sins of the father may very well come back to haunt the next generation!!!!!!

    January 20, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  16. Tim

    John- it was not unanimous but per curiam.

    January 20, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  17. Andrew

    This is where the country is falling apart. The reigns of democracy shouldn't be help by appointed tools.

    January 20, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. zooni

    The 90% growth was of Hispanics but the GOP wants maps that don't include their voting. Something is wrong in America.

    January 20, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  19. david

    I started watching the 9 part series on the Civil War last night. It was brought up over and over that everything happened because of a lack of desire to compromise. Sound familiar? One party refusing to compromise. Mark my words, blood will be shed again in this country becuase of this stupidity. Instead, why don't we break this country up into pieces and move on? No one wants to live with the other side...so why should we?

    January 20, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  20. bostondan

    Grumpy, evaluating politicians before and after they take office is what elections are all about. Evaluate office holders constantly and vote accordingly.

    January 20, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  21. Americanstorm

    Odd the journalist fails to share the vote; unanimous. This tidbit would have limited the foam being hurled about the right-wing court. When will the journolist retire?

    January 20, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    If the GOP is happy about the ruling you can bet your last chimichanga that we got screwed.

    January 20, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  23. Bob

    Let mw guess .... the Supreme Court was split 5 to 4.

    January 20, 2012 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  24. Terry

    When one party wants to enrich themselves not for the good of the people, there will always be questions. The supreme court should have stayed out of it since it was already in the courts. Guess does so called conservatives so their hold slipping away.

    January 20, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  25. Fair is Fair

    GI Joe

    Hmmm – right-wing activist court (one judge married to a bagger-lead-spokeswoman)

    Gee, I'm shocked.
    Hey GI Joe – what part of no dissents did you not get? That means even the wise Latina, Ginsbrg, and Kagan agreed.

    January 20, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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