Washington—The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld most of the Republican-boosting Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay but threw out part, saying some of the new boundaries failed to protect minority voting rights.
The fractured decision was a small victory for Democratic and minority groups who accused Republicans of an unconstitutional power grab in drawing boundaries that booted four Democratic incumbents from office.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said Hispanics do not have a chance to elect a candidate of their choosing under the plan. The vote was 5-4 on that issue.
At issue was the shifting of 100,000 Hispanics out of a district represented by a Republican incumbent and into a new, oddly shaped district. Foes of the plan had argued that that was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander under the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights.
Kennedy’s decision did not specify how quickly the lines must be redrawn, but he said that more than one district would be affected.
“The districts in south and west Texas will have to be redrawn to remedy the violation in District 23, and we have no cause to pass on the legitimacy of a district that must be changed,” he wrote.
He also said that the Texas plan’s “troubling blend of politics and race—and the resulting vote dilution of a group that was beginning to achieve (the law’s) goal of overcoming prior electoral discrimination—cannot be sustained.”
“We see this as a very major victory for the Latino community, which is the main reason we were in this case,” said attorney Rolando Rios, who represented the League of United Latin American Citizens. “Latinos are responsible for the fastest growth in Texas and the state of Texas refused to give us another district.”