The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from Texas Republicans over whether a panel of federal judges acted properly when it replaced the state legislature’s congressional map with its own.
The judges’ map was the result of a lawsuit that claimed the legislature-drawn map did not give adequate opportunity for minority groups to elect representatives of their choosing, as required by the Voting Rights Act. Texas gained four congressional seats from the 2010 Census–65% of the state’s new residents were Latino–yet only one of the four new districts was majority-minority.
Oral argument is set for January 9, and in addition to the implications for voters, a New York Times article highlighted the plight of Texas elections officials who are now stuck in a holding pattern. With less than 90 days before Super Tuesday (March 6), election preparations should be well underway. Instead they are stalled because there are no districts: ballots have not been programmed, proofed or printed, machines have not been tested, voter registration cards haven’t been printed or mailed, and poll workers haven’t been trained.
However the maps are ultimately drawn, the case has already impacted the election schedule, and has the potential to affect voter turnout and county budgets. Even candidates have been unable to file because their districts simply don’t exist. However the Supreme Court rules, the outcome could forever change the way our districts are drawn.