Supreme Court, on 5-4 Party Line Vote, Blocks Texas Redistricting Remedy for Now. What’s Next?

In two orders, with all of the conservative Republican-appointed Justices voting in favor and all the liberal Democratic-appointed Justices opposed, the Supreme Court put on hold a lower court order for Texas to redraw congressional and state house district lines to cure voting rights problems. The lower court had found that some of the districts were drawn with a racially discriminatory intent, some were drawn with a racially discriminatory effect, and some were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. Had the lower court order been put into effect, there would have been some new districts (which would have benefitted Democratic and minority voters in Texas) for the 2018 elections. Now, it is unlikely that such a remedy could be in place before 2020, the last elections before the next round of redistricting.

Texas’s request was early—the lower court had not even drawn the district lines yet, and so the Supreme Court’s involvement now is somewhat aggressive (on the other hand, if the 5 Justice majority knew where it was going to go, why prolong the uncertainty?).

What this means is that the 5 conservative Justices, including Justice Kennedy, are sufficiently confident that Texas could win this case (or that the plaintiffs won’t suffer that much harm to have another election under unconstitutional and illegal lines) to grant this stay.

For those who expect Justice Kennedy to be a savior here—or in the Gill partisan gerrymandering case (where he also voted with the Court to stop an interim remedy in Wisconsin pending Supreme Court resolution)—this is one data point against that hope.

Briefing will take months, and a decision not likely before June.

Share this: