The U.S. Supreme Court partially upheld Texas’ political maps in a 5-4 ruling today.
The court reversed a finding that said Texas intentionally discriminated against minority populations in a 2013 redraw of state house and congressional districts. However, it ruled the state House District 90 in Tarrant County was an impermissible racial gerrymander. Lawmakers will be forced to redraw that one district.
“Not only does the direct evidence suggest that the 2013 Legislature lacked discriminatory intent, but the circumstantial evidence points overwhelmingly to the same conclusion,” wrote Associate Justice Samuel Alito.
Because the decision reverses a lower court ruling that said lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities, voting rights experts say this case cannot lead to the state being “bailed-in” under the Voting Rights Act. That would require that the state clear all its voting laws and administrative rules surrounding elections with a federal court or the Department of Justice.
Texas was required to clear its laws until 2013, when the Supreme Court struck down that provision in the Voting Rights Act.
In 2011, a group of Texas voters filed lawsuits challenging the state’s House maps and congressional districts. Plaintiffs in the case argued Texas lawmakers violated the Voting Rights Act and other protections that prohibit states from writing laws that hurt minority voters.
Federal courts struck down both sets of maps last year and judges ruled lawmakers intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters. Those two cases were later consolidated.
State GOP leaders have argued the state's maps were drawn to favor Republicans, not to disenfranchise minorities.
In a statement today after the court's ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the decision "restored the rule of law to the redistricting process."
"The court highly recognized that the Constitution protects the right of Texans to draw their own legislative districts, and rejected the misguided efforts by unelected federal judges to wrest control of Texas elections from Texas voters," Paxton said.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, whose district that stretches from Travis County to Bexar County was one of the four upheld in the decision, said the designs reduce "accountability and accessibility" for Texas voters.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the district which I serve will not change an inch from its original 2011 gerrymandered shape," Doggett said. "The powerful dissent of Justice Sotomayor makes clear ‘the serious costs to our democracy’ and great harm to underrepresented minority voters arising from the Court ignoring Republican wrongdoing.”
This is a developing story.