Supreme Court grants Texas stay request on electoral maps

Supreme Court grants Texas stay request on electoral maps

A divided Supreme Court is blocking lower court rulings that ordered Texas to redraw some congressional and legislative districts. The court's four progressive justices dissented, but were outvoted by the more conservative majority.

The state argued in a legal brief that if the Supreme Court allowed the redrawing of the state's proposed maps to move forward ahead of the election, the court risked throwing "the Texas election deadlines into chaos for the second time this decade".

"The record indicates not just a hostility toward Democrat districts, but a hostility to minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage", the district judges wrote.

If the courts find that the efforts were intentional, it could return Texas to the kind of federal oversight from which the Supreme Court freed it and other mostly Southern states in the landmark 2013 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder.

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The four liberal justices on the court - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - noted that they would have denied Texas' request.

The decision means Texas nearly certainly will hold elections next year in districts that were struck down as racially discriminatory.

The two appeals by state officials to the Supreme Court will go directly from the trial court to the Justices, bypassing a federal appeals court, because a special federal law spells out that review procedure for redistricting cases. 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. Even so, the Justices may not actually receive the Texas appeals for several weeks, and may not take initial action on them until later this year at the earliest. In some instances, the court pointed out, they rejiggered lines to "to ensure Anglo control" of legislative districts.

The decision means that the disputed districts will likely be used for the 2018 midterm elections. The next chance the state will likely have to draw these new maps will be before 2020 elections.