Supreme Court puts Texas redistricting on hold

Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Texas likely won't be forced to redraw electoral districts a court found were intentionally created to weaken the influence of minority voters before the 2018 midterm elections.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked lower court rulings that demanded Texas redraw boundaries for a number of congressional and state legislative districts. "I can't say that I am surprised by it either", said Jose Garza, counsel to the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuits. "In 2012 the Supreme Court ordered the district court to adopt lawful maps, and we believe it did so".

Bexar County Elections Administrator Jacque Callanen testified earlier this year that election offices must mail out voter registration cards by early October; that's 1 million in Bexar County alone. Filing for that election begins in only two months.

The other possibility is that the March elections are delayed. It disappointed civil rights groups, who had noted that even though growth in the state's Hispanic population was the reason for additional congressional seats, none were drawn to favor minority candidates. New districts would likely have increased the chances for Democrats and minorities to capture them.

The state has been operating under temporary court-ordered maps drawn for the 2012 elections and adopted by the Legislature in 2013.

In a string of decisions in recent weeks, federal courts in Texas - including the San Antonio court and a single trial judge in Corpus Christi - have ruled four times that the state legislature acted illegally against minority voters in passing new election laws - the congressional and legislative redistricting plans, a state voter ID law, and a law on language interpreters at the polls.

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On the state House side, the court flagged nine districts in four counties - Dallas, Nueces, Bell and Tarrant - in which lawmakers diluted the strength of voters of color.

The state and those suing had been set to meet last week to fix violations and take up remedial maps.

The state argued in a legal brief that if the Supreme Court allowed the redrawing of the state's proposed maps to move forward ahead of the election, the court risked throwing "the Texas election deadlines into chaos for the second time this decade".

But the court's liberals - Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - signaled their unhappiness by noting they would not have agreed to Texas' request.

"Getting a final resolution to this matter.is a step in the right direction", he said.

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