Supreme Court to Review Texas Redistricting
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.
The 2003 boundaries helped Republicans win 21 of the state's 32 seats in Congress in the last election_ up from 15. They were approved amid a nasty battle between Republican leaders and Democrats and minority groups in Texas.
The contentiousness also reached Washington, where the Justice Department approved the plan although staff lawyers concluded that it diluted minority voting rights. Because of past discrimination against minority voters, Texas is required to get Justice Department approval for any voting changes to ensure they don't undercut minority voting.
Justices will consider a constitutional challenge to the boundaries filed by various opponents. The court will hear two hours of arguments, likely in April, in four separate appeals.
The legal battle at the Supreme Court was over the unusual timing of the Texas redistricting, among other things. Under the Constitution, states must adjust their congressional district lines every 10 years to account for population shifts.
But in Texas the boundaries were redrawn twice after the 2000 census, first by a court, then by state lawmakers in a second round promoted by DeLay.
By April, when the argument will be heard, O'Connor will be long gone and likely replaced by Alito. It will be interesting to see what happens. In the past clear cases of gerrymandering (drawing of districts in a ridiculous fashion for partisan gain at the expense of civil rights) have been overturned. A district that starts in Austin and follows a highway in a two-mile wide strip all the way to Mexico seems to illustrate that perfectly. The real test isn't the constitutionality of the case, it will be the impartiality of the Supreme Court—has Bush been successful in installing a Republican judicial branch or is the Court still independent?
More background (and outrage) here in my post a week or two ago.