Supreme Court Accepts Texas Redistricting Case

From the L.A. Times, Redistrict Fight Will Go Before High Court:Critics say Republican remapping in Texas, led by Tom DeLay, diluted minority voters’ power.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a constitutional challenge to the hotly disputed Texas redistricting plan engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in 2003 that handed Republicans six additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In a surprise move, the high court said it would consider reining in the most extreme forms of partisan gerrymandering. The court previously has rejected such challenges, concluding it is impossible to separate partisan politics from the drawing of electoral districts

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This is an understatement:

The court’s move to hear the Texas case could spell trouble for the Republicans, who have controlled the U.S. House for a decade. If the justices strike down DeLay’s plan as unconstitutional, that could force political boundary changes in time for the 2006 congressional elections.

If the court was going to let the appellate decision stand, there was no reason to grant certiorari:

Some election law experts said Monday’s action might signal that the court was ready to strike down the Texas plan.
“This is quite a surprise. Maybe Justice Kennedy has made up his mind,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. It is plausible, Hasen said, that Kennedy could be attracted to the standard proposed by the challengers that would not forbid all partisan gerrymandering, but would bar a mid-decade remap to benefit the party in power.

An honest Justice Department would have blocked DeLay’s redistricting plan:

The Washington Post reported recently that career lawyers at the Justice Department had objected to the plan and said it should be blocked because it diluted the voting power of blacks and Latinos. Under the Voting Rights Act, states with a history of racial discrimination in voting must submit their plans to the Justice Department before making changes in their electoral systems. Texas is among these states.
Despite the views of the staff, the Justice Department cleared the Texas plan. A three-judge federal panel also upheld it as constitutional.

This is why you always keep fighting:

Nonetheless, lawyers for the Democrats and some minority voters renewed their challenge in the Supreme Court. They urged the justices to rule that it was unconstitutional to redraw districts in mid-decade “solely to skew future election results in favor of one political party.”
Since the Texas plan won approval, two other states — Georgia and Colorado — have moved to redraw their districts for the second time this decade.