Texas Gerrymandering Case Moves to the Supreme Court

Frederick Owens
April 25, 2018

Adopting the court-drawn maps "ought to give them some presumption of good faith moving forward, which is significant on the determination of their intent to discriminate", Roberts said. However, the question before the High Court is whether the Texas districts violate the Voting Rights Act by diluting the votes of minorities in Texas.

Keller and Kneedler both also faced questions about why Texas took the case to the Supreme Court before the lower court had even issued an injunction. The decennial Census would have created created additional districts where Latino candidates could have been viable options, but the state instead carved out districts safe for white candidates, the suit alleges.

They won the challenge when a three-judge court of the District Court for the Western District of Texas held that the maps were intentionally discriminatory and proceeded to order new interim maps to be drawn up for the next election. "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".

In 2013, the Republican legislature voted to permanently adopt those maps.

"If the court rules against Texas, the justices would be saying that the Republican-controlled legislature had an improper racial motive", he said.

"The Texas legislature did not have a racially discriminatory goal when it adopted the entire court-ordered congressional remedial plan and virtually all of the remedial state house plan", Keller said.

In 2012, the court in San Antonio imposed an interim map for the 2012 election.

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The two consolidated cases argued Tuesday, Abbott v. Perez, No. 17-586, and Abbott v. Perez, No. 17-626, had reached the Supreme Court once before. "Once the district court had redrawn those maps in accordance with the Supreme Courts directive, the district court explained in exhaustive detail how it satisfied every ‘plausible constitutional or statutory objection and the maps ‘were not purposefully discriminatory". "Although this court had "approved" the maps for use as interim maps, given the severe time constraints it was operating under at the time of their adoption", the court said that approval was "not based on a full examination of the record or the governing law" and was "subject to revision".

Edwin Kneedler, the USA deputy solicitor general arguing on the side of Texas, took issue with the district court giving Texas only three days to decide if it would call a special legislature to try to fix its maps. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked.

"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", he said. Austin attorney Max Renea Hicks argued on behalf the parties challenging the US congressional districts, and Allison Riggs, of the voting rights group Southern Coalition for Social Justice, argued for those challenging the state legislative districts.

Texas' legal battle is the third gerrymandering case the court has heard this term. He invoked a quip once quoted by the late Justice Antonio Scalia, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

It doesn't matter that Texas wanted to end the litigation, Riggs said.

If the Supreme Court sides with Texas, that gambit may prove to have been successful.

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