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Supreme Court rejects interim Texas redistricting maps

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled Friday rejected [opinion, PDF] Texas's interim redistricting maps. The emergency appeal [JURIST report] challenged an interim map drawn up by the US District Court for the Western District of Texas while a separate map drawn up by the state legislature is currently being challenged in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official websites] for compliance with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [Cornell LII backgrounder]. In a per curiam opinion, the court rejected the interim maps, finding that, "it is unclear whether the District Court for the Western District of Texas followed the appropriate standards." Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a separate concurrence in which he argued that Section 5 of the VRA, which requires preclearance of the redistricting plan, is unconstitutional. Also Friday, the court set aside [order, PDF] a lower court ruling [JURIST report] that declared West Virginia's redistricting plan unconstitutional until the court can rule on the matter.

According to the 2010 census, Texas' population grew by 4.3 million, which gave it four more seats in the US House of Representatives. The Republican-controlled state legislature redrew the congressional districts in a way that challengers claim would make it more likely for Republicans to win those new seats. The plan must be approved by either the Justice Department or a federal court under Section 5 of the VRA, and the Obama administration has objected to the plan. In the meantime, the federal court in Texas drew an "interim map" for use in the 2012 election. That is the map that is currently being challenged before the Supreme Court. The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to reject the interim maps, and the court heard arguments [JURIST reports] in the case last week.

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