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
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
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
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
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