The Supreme Court said today it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.
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.
The Texas case has been to the Supreme Court once before, and justices ordered a lower court to reconsider the boundaries following a decision in another redistricting case from Pennsylvania. Justices in that splintered opinion left little room for lawsuits claiming that political gerrymandering — drawing a map to give one political party an advantage — violates the "one-person, one-vote" principle protected in the Constitution.
However, now the court will have a chance to revisit that issue and the outcome could change because the court's membership is changing. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is retiring, and Chief Justice John Roberts has been on the bench just a few months.
A lower court panel ruled that the map is constitutional and does not violate federal voting rights law.
Paul M. Smith, a Washington attorney representing challengers to the Texas map, told justices that the redoing of maps "is a symptom of the excessively partisan approach to redistricting now in vogue."
"When legislators choose to take such actions, they should be required to demonstrate some legitimate governmental purpose," he wrote in a filing.
The cases are League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 05-204; Travis County v. Perry, 05-254; Jackson v. Perry, 05-276; GI Forum of Texas v. Perry, 05-439.
Still, that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a focus on why and how this came about. It's important to know that the decision by the staff attorneys at the Department of Justice to deny preclearance was not a close call (via Kos) and that the DOJ has since moved to eliminate staff opinions entirely (via The Stakeholder) in voting rights cases, thus leaving the decisions up to political appointees. Just because SCOTUS can't do anything to fix this doesn't mean nothing can be done.Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 12, 2005 to Killer D's | TrackBack