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Supreme Court Orders Texas Redistricting Review
Published on Monday, October 18, 2004 by Reuters
Supreme Court Orders Texas Redistricting Review
by James Vicini
 

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court ordered on Monday further consideration of a challenge by Democrats and minority groups to a controversial Republican-backed congressional redistricting plan in Texas.

The justices in a brief order granted an appeal by those challenging the plan and set aside a ruling by a federal three-judge panel in January that upheld the bitterly contested map.

The justices ordered further consideration by the federal panel in view of their ruling in April that upheld a Pennsylvania redistricting case. They did not elaborate further.

Those challenging the redistricting plan, which had been strongly supported by House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, argued it was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and that it diluted the voting strength of minorities.

They challenged whether redistricting plans can be redrawn in the middle of the decade to maximize partisan advantage. Congressional districts usually are drawn once, early in the decade, right after the release of new U.S. Census data.

After the 2000 census, the Texas legislature failed to act on redistricting and a court-drawn plan was adopted.

After months of turmoil, the redistricting plan advocated by Texas Republicans finally won approval last year in a third special session called by Republican Gov. Rick Perry. Democrats twice stymied efforts to adopt the plan by leaving the state and denying Republicans a quorum.

Those challenging the plan told the Supreme Court it shifted more than 8 million Texans into new districts and was designed for the Republicans to pick up as many as seven seats now held by Democrats in the U.S. House.

"The 2003 Texas congressional redistricting is proof that the redistricting process in this country has gone completely haywire," their attorneys said in asking the high court to reverse the ruling of the three-judge panel.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, urged the Supreme Court to summarily affirm the panel's ruling. "This case raises no new questions of fact or law," he said, adding that the questions presented are "insubstantial."

But the justices refused to summarily affirm the lower court's ruling.

© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd

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