Supreme Court Reinstates Texas Voting Districts Found Biased

A divided U.S. Supreme Court reinstated disputed congressional and state voting maps in Texas, blocking two lower court rulings that said the Republican-backed district lines were the product of racial discrimination.

The orders issued Tuesday evening make it likely the disputed districts will be used in 2018, as they were with some small variations for the three previous elections. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented.

The moves suggest the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is skeptical about the lower court rulings and eventually could use the disputes to put new curbs on voting-discrimination suits.

The high court action is a victory for Texas Republicans, who defended the districts and sought Supreme Court intervention. It’s a blow to minority-rights groups that sued to challenge the maps.

In the congressional case, a divided three-judge panel would have required the redrawing of districts currently held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett and Republican Blake Farenthold. Doggett’s district stretches from Austin to San Antonio, and Farenthold’s district includes Corpus Christi and much of the area along the Gulf of Mexico damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

Texas officials said the disputed congressional map, enacted by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2013, was identical to one a court had previously put in place on an interim basis. The minority groups said the interim map wasn’t designed to resolve every legal issue.

Texas gained four new congressional seats after the 2010 U.S. Census counted 4.3 million new Texans, almost 90 percent of whom were Hispanic or black. State lawmakers, however, drew no new districts favoring minority voters, a group that tends to choose Democratic candidates.

The cases, which have bounced up and down the court system for years, are part of a flurry of election litigation involving Texas, which is also fighting suits over its voter-identification law and its state legislative districts.

The cases are Abbott v. Perez, 17A225, and Abbott v. Perez, 17A245.

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