The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, said today that in all but one case, the Texas Legislature acted legally when it drew Congressional and State Legislative districts which stretch the boundaries of the districts to favor Republicans, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The redistricting of several districts has been the subject of repeated federal court challenges for seven years, ever since the Legislature met following the 2010 Census.
Opponents, led by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, claimed that several districts were drawn with the express purpose of diluting the minority vote, through processes known as 'packing and cracking.'
In 'packing,' the Legislature allegedly drew bizarrely shaped districts so minority votes could be 'packed' into a single district and would not have a say in multiple districts. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett's district, which runs down I-35 from east Austin to east San Antonio was seen as an example of this.
In 'cracking,' neighborhoods which are heavily minority are divided up into multiple districts, to dilute the impact of the minority vote. A Congressional district in the coastal bend, previously represented by Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold, was held up as an example of this, because neighborhoods across the area are divided in order to divide those minority neighborhoods into several different districts.The court ruled that, with the exception of House District 90 in Tarrant County, which, ironically is represented by a Hispanic Democrat, all of the Texas districts were drawn appropriately and without the 'racial intent' which was alleged by the trial court.
Political analyst Mark Jones of Rice University says the Democrats suffer a double loss with this decision.
"For Democrats this is a double whammy," Jones said. "They didn't get the districts redrawn in a way that they wanted to, and, at the same time, they didn't get the evidence they hoped to use that Republicans engaged in discriminatory and racist behavor."
Two of the court's most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Neal Gorsuch, ruled that the Voting Rights Act doesn't cover redistricting at all, and MALDEF's claims should never have been considered.
"This is a major victory for Texas Republicans, because it affirms that what they did was not racially discriminatory," Jones said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised today's ruling
.“I’m grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court restored the rule of law to the redistricting process. The court rightly recognized that the Constitution protects the right of Texans to draw their own legislative districts, and rejected the misguided efforts by unelected federal judges to wrest control of Texas elections from Texas voters,” Paxton said. “This is a huge win for the Constitution, Texas, and the democratic process. Once again, Texans have the power to govern themselves.”
Jones says had the MALDEF argument prevailed, the groups would have asked the court to place Texas again under the control of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which required that any changed in election laws, maps, or processes first be 'pre-cleared' by the Justice Department.
The problem that courts have wrestled with is the fact that drawing political districts to help the party in power is legal, but drawing districts to assist or disadvantage minority groups is not.