The US Supreme Court Hears Arguments On Texas' Redistricting Maps

Supreme Court to consider Texas redistricting

Supreme Court to consider Texas redistricting

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

On Tuesday, the voting rights case, Abbott vs. Perez, got its day in court- the highest court in the land, no less.

Standing before the nine justices in a packed courtroom, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller was barely minutes into arguing that there was no evidence mapmakers acted with a discriminatory objective when the court's liberal justices interrupted and asked why the court should consider the case when the state hadn't been prevented from using its current maps for the upcoming elections.

The court's liberal justices doubt that the Supreme Court should be hearing the case at all.

The case had been tabled by the Supremes previous year on a 5 - 4 ideological vote of conservatives over liberals on the High Court pending appeal.

After a lower court ruled in their favor, the State fought back. Had the state pushed to use them, the state surely would have been held in contempt even though the lower court didn't use "magic words", like injunction, to block them, Keller insisted.

While the conservatives on the court engaged with this question a bit, they seemed eager to drill down on to the deeper questions in Texas' request.

The liberals on the court stressed that intervening now would open the doors for any case to seek Supreme Court review without a final ruling or a formal preliminary injunction.

Among the high court's options are to either take jurisdiction over the case and rule on its various procedural and substantive questions, or return the case to a district court in Texas for further review.

The case is the latest in which the justices are pondering a practice known as gerrymandering in which electoral districts in states are drawn in a way that amplifies the power of certain voters - in this case white voters - at the expense of others. The 11 districts in question in the case include two congressional districts and nine state House districts.

"You have instances where the courts have said this is some intentional discrimination or there's unconstitutional gerrymandering", Rodriguez said in an interview on "State of Texas". That's when the state's Republican-led legislature re-drew the maps. But they had to grapple with how to redraw the political maps to account for the state's growth when demographics were shifting against them. Lawmakers then adopted those maps as permanent when they returned to the Capitol in 2013.

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The Washington court would ultimately find the proposed maps unconstitutional, but the federal court in San Antonio drew interim maps for the state to use in time for the 2012 primary elections.

Chief Justice John Roberts on multiple occasions asked the lawyers arguing in front of him to move on to the merits of the case. The district court agreed despite the fact that it is the author of 2013 plan.

Roberts one point seemed to agree. The court argued that the map violates the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment.

"They wanted to end litigation by maintaining the discrimination against black and Latino voters, muffling their growing political voice in a state where black and Latino voters' population is exploding", Riggs told the court. He said the Legislature was acting in good faith to resolve the litigation by adopting a map it believed the court would surely approve.

The other sides argue that the current lines drawn can't be discriminatory because federal judges created them. "And there is absolutely no evidence in plaintiffs' briefs that somehow the Legislature was trying to lock in discriminatory districts".

"Are you ending the litigation or are you ending the possibility of a court stopping you from discriminating?"

"The intention to discriminate against voters of color is clear", said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO.

When the challengers' attorneys stepped up, the conservative justices zeroed in on whether the Texas legislature had been given the presumption of good faith in the district court's finding that it still acted with a discriminatory intent when adopting the interim map.

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

Opponents of the legislative lines argue the state should not have appealed the initial decision directly to the Supreme Court.

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