Court: Redrawn Map Hurt Texas Minorities
By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 18
WASHINGTON - A key Supreme Court justice said
Wednesday that Texas Republicans appeared to hurt
minority voters when they redrew congressional
boundaries that helped the GOP entrench its power in
But despite Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's misgivings,
it did not appear there was broad support on the high
court to throw out the entire map promoted by former
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to help
Republicans win six more seats.
Justices also did not seem ready to bar states from
drawing their boundaries more than once a decade.
The court took up four appeals that raised complicated
questions about voter rights both under the
Constitution and federal election law.
The practical impact of the ruling, expected before
July, is significant.
"The fate of who controls the House of Representatives
could lie with this decision," said Nathaniel Persily,
a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Texas Republicans shifted congressional district
boundaries enough in 2003 that 8 million people
including large blocks of Hispanics were placed in
new districts, represented by different U.S. House
members, justices were told.
Kennedy, a centrist swing voter, focused his concerns
on how the shift affected Hispanics in South Texas.
"It seems to me that is an affront and an insult," he
The Texas boundaries were changed in 2003 after
Republicans took control of both houses of the state
Legislature. DeLay had helped GOP legislative
candidates in 2002, and was a key player in getting
the new map that benefited him and other Republican
Since then, however, he has struggled from the
fallout. He was charged in state court with money
laundering in connection with fundraising for
legislative candidates. He gave up his leadership post
and is fighting the charges.
DeLay also was admonished by the House ethics
committee for asking a federal agency to help track
aircraft that flew several Democrats out of state as
part of quorum-breaking walkouts during the bitter
fight over maps.
Justices did not mention DeLay, and he was not in the
Afterward, R. Ted Cruz, the Texas solicitor general,
repeated his courtroom arguments that Republicans were
only replacing boundaries had been drawn to benefit
Democrats and that did not reflect the
"This map on any measure of fairness accurately
reflects the way Texans are voting at the polls right
now," he said.
The Supreme Court had put the Texas cases on the fast
track, scheduling an unusually long two-hour afternoon
The subject matter was extremely technical, and near
the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and
Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her
but did not give her a nudge.
The court has struggled in the past to define how much
politics is acceptable when states draw new boundaries
to reflect population shifts.
"The only reason it was considered, let alone passed,
was to help one political party get more seats than
another," the justices were told by Paul M. Smith, a
Washington lawyer who represents several groups
challenging the plan.
"That's a surprise," Justice Antonin Scalia joked.
"Legislatures redraw the map all the time for
Chief Justice John Roberts also aggressively
challenged critics of the boundaries to explain what
was wrong with Republican lawmakers drawing districts
that benefit Republicans.
Nina Perales, representing a Hispanic civil rights
group, said that "race was used gratuitously and
cynically" by Republicans, who split up Hispanic
neighborhoods to dilute their voting strength.
Kennedy said the result was an odd-looking map that
mixed voters of very different backgrounds.
Two years ago, justices split 5-4, in leaving a narrow
opening for challenges claiming party politics overly
influenced election maps. Kennedy was the key swing
voter in that case.
Six Hispanics and three blacks represent Texas in the
House of Representatives an increase of one more
black congressman from before the 2003 map was put in
The arguments come just a week before Texans vote in
the primaries. Should the justices rule the map
unconstitutional, they could throw out the map and
force new primaries.
The cases are League of United Latin American Citizens
v. Perry, 05-204; Travis County v. Perry, 05-254;
Jackson v. Perry, 05-276; GI Forum of Texas v. Perry,
Associated Press Writers Suzanne Gamboa and Elizabeth
White contributed to this report.
On the Net:
Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/