Supreme Court to Evaluate Texas Redistricting

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would hear four cases involving the 2003 redistricting in the state of Texas, which dramatically increased the number of Republicans in the Congressional delegation from Texas. Redistricting usually occurs once a decade, to account for shifts in population as demonstrated by the census, but Texas redrew boundaries twice following the 2000 census. The 2003 redistricting, largely engineered by then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), was passed through the Texas legislature after Democratic representatives twice left the state to avoid having a quorum for the vote.

The four cases challenge the redistricting on various grounds, including that it dilutes the power of Hispanic voters in violation of the Voting Rights Act; that it was an inappropriate use of outdated census information; and that the legislature may not redraw districts in the middle of a decade “for the sole purpose of maximizing partisan advantage,” reports the New York Times. Because of past disenfranchisement of minority voters, the Texas plan had to go before the Justice Department, where it was approved despite findings by staff attorneys that it undermined minority voting rights, according to the Houston Chronicle. According to the Washington Post, political appointees overturned decisions by career civil servants in the Justice Department on this and a Voting Rights Act case in Georgia.

The Supreme Court will hear the case on March 1, in an attempt to reach a decision before the Supreme Court recesses in June. These cases also raise the stakes for Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, who, in a 1985 application for a promotion in the Reagan administration, said he disagreed with Warren Court rulings in the area of reapportionment, i.e., one person, one vote.

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Associated Press 12/12/05; New York Times 12/13/05; Houston Chronicle 12/13/05; Washington Post 12/10/05

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