What this means, I don't even know yet. As many of you may recall, Texas courts rejected the original maps gerrymandered by Republicans back in December, which led to court-drawn maps which were highly favorable to Texas Democrats. The court-drawn maps were then thrown out by the Supreme Court in January, which evidently led to the interim maps they had up until now...
Now, the US District Court in Washington just struck down those maps down this afternoon.
From Huffington Post:
The U.S. District Court in Washington ruled in a lengthy opinion Tuesday that state prosecutors failed to show Texas lawmakers did not draw congressional and state Senate district maps "without discriminatory purposes."What happens after this is confusing, because three sets of maps have now been struck down. Does the District Court draw another set of maps? Does the Texas Legislature draw another interim set of maps?
According to the linked article, Texas AG Greg Abbott intends to go back to the Supreme Court with this. Judging from the composition of the Supreme Court, and their handling of the court-drawn maps back in January, I'm not terribly optimistic.
Also, according to Texas Redistricting:
The big question following today’s Texas redistricting opinion is ‘what happens now?’
At the moment, that’s a bit unclear. Waiting for the redistricting opinion had become a bit like waiting for Godot - so folks are still digesting the opinion and looking at options.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has taken the position that the opinion will not affect the November election, which he says will proceed on the interim maps put into place back in February.
On the other hand, it is certainly possible to see a move to adjust those interim maps in the San Antonio court. For example, CD-23 arguably could be restored to its benchmark configuration fairly easily. Similar arguments might also be made with respect to HD 117 and 149, which are wholly contained in their respective counties.
In 1996, for example, the three-judge panel ordered jungle primaries in a number of congressional districts which were held on the date of the November election, with a runoff a month later.
But all that will be that a call that Attorney General Abbott and the redistricting plaintiffs in San Antonio will have to make in coming days.
As for appeal, Attorney General Abbott has already said that he will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could set the case for oral argument as early as this fall.
Stay tuned. Things are getting interesting again.
Texas is one of seven GOP states that recently filed an amicus brief supporting a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court. The state has already vowed to appeal the redistricting case to the Supreme Court, which could also hear Texas’s voter ID case if overturned. Texas, it should be noted, has lost more Section 5 enforcement suits than any other state. Today’s ruling is another black eye for Republicans in the Lone Star State.I hadn't thought of that, but I suppose this all ties in with the challenge of the Voting Rights Act that Texas is part of -- and that we haven't been too optimistic about. As I recall, the word after the PPACA ruling was that Chief Justice Roberts was "keeping his powder dry" in order to wreck progressive legislation in the future.
Most of the article preceding that excerpt mostly reiterates what the article in Huffington Post states, with the inclusion of an interesting excerpt from the Court regarding the motives of the Texas Legislature:
Congressman Al Green, who represents CD 9, testified that “substantial surgery” was done to his district that could not have happened by accident. The Medical Center, Astrodome, rail line, and Houston Baptist University — the “economic engines” of the district — were all removed in the enacted plan. The enacted plan also removed from CD 9 the area where Representative Green had established his district office. Likewise, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents CD 18, testified that the plan removed from her district key economic generators as well as her district office. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of CD 30 also testified that the plan removed the American Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks), the arts district, her district office, and her home from CD 30. The mapdrawers also removed the district office, the Alamo, and the Convention Center (named after the incumbent’s father), from CD 20, a Hispanic ability district.
No such surgery was performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents. In fact, every Anglo member of Congress retained his or her district office. Anglo district boundaries were redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren. And Texas never challenged evidence that only minority districts lost their economic centers by showing, for example, that the same types of changes had been made in Anglo districts.
The only explanation Texas offers for this pattern is “coincidence.” But if this was coincidence, it was a striking one indeed. It is difficult to believe that pure chance would lead to such results. The State also argues that it “attempted to accommodate unsolicited requests from a bipartisan group of lawmakers,” and that “[w]ithout hearing from the members, the mapdrawers did not know where district offices were located.” But we find this hard to believe as well. We are confident that the mapdrawers can not only draw maps but read them, and the locations of these district offices were not secret. The improbability of these events alone could well qualify as a “clear pattern, unexplainable on grounds other than race,” and lead us to infer a discriminatory purpose behind the Congressional Plan.
3:53 PM PT: Courtesy of one of the commenters, this has been the timeline of events:
1. Special three member District Court struck down the lines drawn by the LegeEarlier, I implied that the maps struck down today were drawn by the Texas Legislature. Apparently, they were actually a second set of maps drawn by the same panel that drew the maps the were struck down by the SCOTUS...
2. District Court drew interim lines so that the primaries could be held, but the Lege would have to fix the lines they drew in 2013 or the interim lines would remain in affect
3. Texas Republicans hate the district court drawn lines and appeal to the Supreme Court.
4. Supreme Court stays the district court draw lines pending hearing further delaying primaries.
5. Supreme Court strikes down the district court drawn lines saying the court has to show deference to the Lege drawn lines in correcting the unconstitutionality of those lines.
6. The special district court redraws the Lege lines to fix what they deemed to be unconstitutional about them. Republicans still hate the lines because they screw minorities less and allow for Anglo Democrats to survive, but cannot delay primaries further.
7. Primaries held under the version 2 court drawn lines while the second redistricting case in DC is still pending.
8. DC District court also finds Lege drawn lines unconstitutional further putting the nail in the coffin of the Lege drawn lines that formed the basis of the San Antonio Court drawn lines.
9. Elections will proceed under the temporary lines drawn by the San Antonio court.
10. The Texas Lege (which goes back into session in Jan 2013) will have to redraw the lines as the basis for the interim lines is unconstitutional and would require a third version of court drawn lines if the Lege fails to act to correct the problems found by the DC court.
In any case, it looks like those maps will be used in November since they've already been used for the primaries.