The U.S. Supreme Court announced late Friday that it will temporarily block interim redistricting maps in Texas as the court examines the constitutionality of the map, a process that may delay legislative and congressional primaries in the state until May.
The Supreme Court has taken up the case at the emergency request of Texas Attorney Greg Abbot, who asked the high court to block an interim court-drawn congressional and state legislative map that a San Antonio-based federal court said more accurately reflects the state's growing Hispanic and black populations.
The court-drawn map was proposed after Democrats and minority groups in Texas challenged an original map approved by the state's Republican-controlled legislature. Texas is set to receive four additional congressional seats, more than any other state, to reflect its population boost. Minorities are currently the majority in 10 out of Texas' 32 congressional districts, which the court-approved map aims to raise to 13 out of 36 districts to reflect the state's growing minority population.
Hispanic Population: 38 Percent of Texas
The U.S. Census Bureau reported in February that the state's Hispanic population has grown by about 4 million people, now making up about 38 percent of the state.
As a result of the Supreme Court hearing, the primary elections that were originally scheduled for March will likely be delayed, while there is also confusion over the deadline for the bith state and U.S. Congressional candidates to file for office.
The Texas Attorney General's Office is committed to protecting the integrity of Texas' elections by ensuring they are conducted based on legally constructed redistricting maps, Abbott said in a Friday statement, the Houston Chronicle reported, adding that Abbot acknowledged the case will probably delay primary elections.
The Supreme Court has set an expedited briefing, setting a Jan. 9 hearing date for oral arguments.
Critics of the legislature-approved map said they were confused by the Supreme Court's decision to take up the case, which has been viewed as a win for the attorney general's office.
I thought that the San Antonio court judges didn't go far enough, state Rep. March Veasey, D-Fort Worth, told the Houston Chronicle. Veasey has filed for reelection in the newly drawn minority-dominated 33rd Congressional district.
In a statement Trey Martinez Fischer, the chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Congress, said while the organization is concerned about the potential disruption of the 2012 election schedule, it looks forward to making its case before the nation's highest court.
Our resolve remains stronger than ever and our commitment to minority voting rights unwavering. If there ever was a textbook case of Voting Rights Act violations, this is it, he said.
The maps approved by the Texas legislature are not enforceable until a federal court in Washington, D.C. certifies that it does not disenfranchise minority voters, leading the San Antonio court to create its interim plan. In the emergency request to the Supreme Court, Abbot argued that the court-approved map is fatally flawed and said the three-judge panel did not have the power to create an additional map since the original had not been rejected by the federal court in the nation's capital.
U.S. Justice Department: Texas-Approved Redistricting Violated Minority Voting Protections
In September, the U.S. Justice Department ruled the Texas-approved congressional redistricting plan violated minority voting protections, writing that it would not maintain or increase the ability of minority voters to elect the candidate of their choice.
Under the Voting Rights Act, Southern states that have experienced a history of racial discrimination cannot change their election system until they have been approved by the Justice Department. However, those states also have the option of filing suit in the District of Columbia District Court to receive the same clearance.