Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal panel’s rejection of the state’s redistricting maps.
In August, a three-judge special panel in Washington, D.C., concluded that the maps – favored by the Republican-controlled Legislature – do not comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
"The State of Texas is appealing this case because the lower court improperly extended the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits imposed by the Constitution and created new standards that have never been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a statement.
Because of its history of discrimination, when Texas makes any changes affecting voting it must get federal approval, or preclearance, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
In the past 10 years, Texas added nearly 4.3 million people. According to the 2010 Census, the state was apportioned four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for a total of 36 seats.
The state Legislature passed new redistricting plans from both parties, and the new maps for the Texas House and Senate were signed into law in June 2011. The plan for the U.S. House was signed into law in July 2011.
The state then formally sought judicial preclearance, but after a trial the court denied preclearance to all three of Texas’ redistricting plans.
The judges noted that important economic areas were stripped from districts that have been historically represented by African Americans, but “no such surgery” was performed on any district belonging to white incumbents.
The state is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether the district panel erred by requiring Texas to increase the number of congressional districts where minority members make up the majority, whether the court erred by finding the maps had a discriminatory purpose and by allowing private intervenors to challenge the Texas Senate map even though the Department of Justice conceded it was entitled to preclearance.
The decision will not affect the November election, as voters in Texas will use interim maps drawn last year by a panel in San Antonio after minority groups filed a lawsuit. The Washington panel addressed the separate issue of whether the maps met requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
“The maps enacted by the Texas Legislature satisfy all necessary legal requirements, so the judges in Washington, D.C., simply created new requirements in an attempt to justify their rejection of Texas' maps,” Abbott said. “In order to ensure the Texas Legislature's maps apply to the next election cycle, the State is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and override the lower court's flawed decision during the Court's current term."