December 13, 2005

Texas Redistricting Media Coverage and Commentary

See reports in the New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; A.P. Howard Bashman collects more links here.

Lyle Denniston seeks to gain some insight into the Court's direction by looking at why the Court granted a hearing in only four of the seven cases. He reasons:

    A closer analysis than was available earlier in the day Monday of the questions the Court will be hearing in the Texas cases suggests strongly that the Court is seeking to refine its review of so-called "mid-decade redistricting." That is the question of whether a state, once it had a lawful congressional boundary lines plan in effect, can adopt a replacement plan before there is a new ten-year national Census.

    That question, of course, involves both the braoder question of whether mid-decade redistricting is ever allowed constitutionality, when a valid plan is already in effect, and the more particularized question of whether mid-decade redistricting is allowed when it is done for purely partisan purposes.

    In one of the two cases the Court did not agree to hear -- docket 04-10649, Henderson v. Perry -- the broader question is the only one raised. The Court was asked in that case to decide whether, once a valid map had been ordered by a federal court, congressional boundaries could be changed before a new Census "in the absence of any substantial shift in population, a politicallly neutral change in circumstances, or some other event evincing a legitimate regulatory purpose?" Equally broadly, the case of Lee v. Perry (05-460) -- also not granted -- raised the question of whether the Constitution's "silence" allows a state "to engage in repeated reapportionment (more than every ten years)."

    By contrast, one of the granted cases, Jackson v. Perry (05-276), for example, asked whether it violates the Constitution for a state to redraw "lawful districting plans in the middle of the decade, for the sole purpose of maximizing partisan advantage." (emphasis added) Other granted cases phrase that issue in a similarly refined form.

Perhaps this is reading too much into things. If the Court really wanted to narrow things to mid-decade redistricting, why would it agree to consider the voting rights and racial gerrymandering claims as well, which the three judge lower court treated as no longer at issue in the case?
By the way, Findlaw has now posted the lower court decision.

Posted by Rick Hasen at December 13, 2005 07:29 AM