The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that Texas shouldn't rush to fix its electoral district maps before the state's 2018 elections — even though two federal courts found 11 of these districts to be illegally drawn
to suppress the votes
of African-American and Latino voters.
In two brief rulings issued late Tuesday, the court's newly conservative majority sided with Justice Samuel Alito, who had ordered a preliminary pause
on these dual rulings last week. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented in a 5-4 ruling. The decision highlights the new influence that Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, has on tipping the court's scales to the conservative right. Without his vote, the court would have produced a 4-4 vote, and be forced to let the Texas rulings stand.
But now Texas will have to wait at least until October, when the Supreme Court is back in session, for approval (or not) to redraw the contested districts. But it usually takes the court until June to submit a decision, especially one involving a tangled, years-long battle over gerrymandering in Texas.
Election officials in Texas have said they would need new maps by October if the state wanted to update them before the coming 2018 elections. This court decision, then, decidedly kills any hope civil rights lawyers and progressive lawmakers had to hold elections in undisputed districts in the new future. The next chance the state will likely have to draw these new maps will be before 2020 elections.
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who supports the redistricting plans (despite representing one of the contested districts) shared his cautious optimism in a Tuesday statement.
“I have always maintained that the Supreme Court would have the final say on local congressional district lines, and tonight the Court just said it," he wrote.