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Supreme Court Grapples With Texas Redistricting Case

Supreme Court Grapples With Texas Redistricting Case

The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could not only require Texas to redraw its congressional districts, but give states a way to defend against claims of gerrymandering. A three-judge district court in San Antonio has issued multiple rulings finding the maps discriminatory against Latino and African American voters, but had not yet completed the remedy stage when Texas successfully sought a stay in the case from Justice Samuel Alito. Scott A. Keller, Texas' solicitor general, said state lawmakers had adopted the maps after substantial debate and deliberation.

The plaintiffs in the Texas case then amended their challenge, contesting both the 2011 maps and the new plans the Legislature had just passed.

"The district court in Texas trampled on law and logic alike in order to wrest from the people of Texas their authority - through their duly elected representatives - to control their legislative districts". But seven years into legal wrangling over Texas lawmakers' efforts to redraw the state's maps, the punchy legal briefs have already served to crystallize the frustration surrounding the prolonged - and convoluted - litigation. "Now, if we're going to call that a grant of an injunction, we're going to hear 50,000 appeals from however many three-judge courts there are".

Added Justice Elena Kagan: "And what I'm concerned about is that if you're right, we're going to be hearing all of these districting cases not after the remedial stage but, instead, straight away after the liability stage".

That question was not in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, but the challengers plan to use this case to ask the district court to put Texas back under pre-clearance under the VRA's Section 3, which allows states and jurisdictions to be "bailed in" if they are found to have acted with intent to discriminate against minority voters.

Pointing to the lawmakers' 2013 adoption of a court-drawn map that was meant to be temporary, the groups chronicled the actions as "a ruse", a "shellgame strategy" and a devious "smokescreen" meant to obscure discriminatory motives behind a previous redistricting plan.

Opponents of the legislative lines argue the state should not have appealed the initial decision directly to the Supreme Court.

But some of the justices were concerned that following Texas' reasoning would lead the court's inbox to be flooded with appeals of lower court decisions. Because it is likely too late to fix those maps in time for the 2018 elections, even if Texas loses this round, it will have had kept in place maps found to be intentionally discriminatory in eight out of 10 years of elections. That was when lawmakers embarked on redrawing the state's congressional and legislative districts to account for explosive growth, particularly among Hispanic residents, following the 2010 census. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked. They flagged areas of the state where the boundaries today remain unchanged between the two maps.

"You have instances where the courts have said this is some intentional discrimination or there's unconstitutional gerrymandering", Rodriguez said in an interview on "State of Texas".

That move, the state contends, was a "conciliatory act" in which the Legislature "embraced the court's maps for the perfectly permissible reason that it wanted to bring the litigation to an end".

Edwin S. Kneedler, a lawyer for the federal government arguing in support of Texas, said it was a mistake to apply the flaws in the earlier map to the later one.

Attorney General Ken Paxton announced last week that Gov.