Texas officials are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in a state political dispute and block the use of a new redistricting map that could increase minority representation in the legislature and ultimately cost Republicans at least four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The appeal occurred after a San Antonio-based federal court drafted an interim redistricting map to reflect the state's growing Hispanic and black population, saying a map drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature did not accurately reflect Texas' minority population. The court-drawn map was proposed after Democrats and minority groups in Texas challenged the original plan.
Minorities are currently the majority in 10 out of Texas' 32 congressional districts; the court-approved map would boost raise that to 13 out of 36 districts. Texas is getting four new congressional seats -- more than any other state -- to reflect its population boost, after a February U.S. Census Bureau report showed the state's Hispanic population has increased by about 4 million people, making up about 38 percent of the state.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot filed an emergency request with the Supreme Court on Monday, saying the map approved by the federal court is fatally flawed and would increase the number of districts dominated by Hispanic voters, presumably giving Democrats an unfair advantage.
Did Texas Redistricting Law Consider Constitutional Principles?
In the Supreme Court appeal, known as Perry v. Perez, the State of Texas alleges the court improperly rejected the will of the elected legislature and redrew state House and Senate districts without regard to established legal or constitutional principles. As a result, Abbot said the interim map must be blocked because elections should not proceed based on legally flawed maps that are likely to be overturned on further review.
The state's attorney's has asked the high court to rule on the case as soon as possible, since candidates for Congress must file to run for office by Dec. 15 and will need to know where their districts will be located.
Texas law states redistricting plans approved by the legislature can be challenged in court, while judges have the power to create alternate maps. According to multiple reports, because the GOP currently holds a super-majority in the legislature, they did not need Democratic support to pass their redistricting map.
However, under a provision of the Voting Rights Act, minorities must have a reasonable chance to elect candidates of their choice, which critics said would not occur under the plan passed by the Texas legislature. Moreover, the Voting Rights Act also specifies that Southern states cannot change their election systems until they have been approved in Washington -- therefore, because the Texas plan has not yet gained that clearance, the interim plan will be used in the meantime.
The Justice Department, under the directive of the Obama administration, as well as Latino activists, opposed the Texas plan on the grounds that it will not lead to the minority representation that the state's soaring Hispanic population demands.
Ninety percent of the growth in this state in the last decade was minority growth, said Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democratic state representative in Texas, told CNN. Sixty-five percent of that alone, Latino. So you would expect these new congressional districts would reflect the minority populations that created the opportunity.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry -- who is currently campaigning for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination -- supported the map passed by the state legislature, but has not signed it into law while it is being challenged in court. The court-approved redistricting plan will stay in effect until all of its legal challenges are exhausted.