Supreme Court Throws Out Texas Redistricting Plan Drawn by Federal Judges

In an unsigned opinion, the court rejected a redistricting plan that was seen as favorable to minorities in Texas.

Posted: 01/20/2012 12:19 PM EST
Clarence Thomas, U.S. Supreme Court, Congress, Democratic Party, redistricting, Republican Party, Texas

The United States Supreme Court threw out a redistricting plan crafted by a panel of federal judges in Texas — an electoral map that favored African-American and Latino residents.

The justices said that the federal court had not given sufficient consideration to the plan of the state legislature and that it had imposed its own values over those of the state’s officials. It’s uncertain how this will affect the plans for the state’s April primary elections.

In an unsigned opinion, the court ordered the three-judge court in San Antonio to produce a new electoral map. However, the court did not force the state to adopt a redistricting plan created by the Texas Republican-led state legislature.

The only judge who expressed a preference for that plan was Justice Clarence Thomas.

“To avoid being compelled to make such otherwise standardless decisions,” the Supreme Court’s decision said, “a district court should take guidance from the state’s recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan. That plan reflects the state’s policy judgments on where to place new districts and how to shift existing ones in response to massive population growth.”

As a result of population changes following the 2010 census, Texas has gained four additional congressional seats for a total of 36 seats in Congress. Under the plan drawn by the federal judges, minority residents would have represented the majority of three of the four new districts.

The Legislature produced a redistricting plan that is widely viewed as favoring Republican candidates. The plan crafted by the three judges in the federal court in San Antonio was one that enhanced the voting strength of minority voters, particularly Latino Texans, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic.

Texas officials asked the Supreme Court to prevent the redistricting plan drawn by the federal judges from taking effect. The state’s lawyer, in arguing the case in front of the court, said that the federal judges should have placed greater weight on the plan drafted by the legislature, using that as a starting point.

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