Court gives Texas Legislature deadline for redistricting fix


Order is in response to U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found problems with one district in Fort Worth.

If the Legislature declines to act, the federal court panel says it will redraw the Texas House district.

The three-judge federal court panel that found discrimination problems in 11 Texas political districts, only to be overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court on all but one of the districts, issued an order Thursday giving the Legislature a deadline to take action on redrawing the out-of-compliance district.

If no redistricting bill is introduced in the first 45 days of the 2019 legislative session, “or if it otherwise is made apparent that no redistricting legislation will be considered,” the court said it will redraw Texas House District 90 to make sure there’s a fix in place before the 2020 elections.

The 140-day legislative session begins Jan. 8.

You vote for them. We keep them accountable. Subscribe to our free Texas politics newsletter

In late June, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the three-judge panel erred when it tossed out 10 Republican-drawn state political districts, including a congressional district in Travis County, for intentionally discriminating against minority voters, who tend to favor Democrats, or for using race to improperly gerrymander political boundaries.

The high court agreed with the panel’s finding of racial gerrymandering in House District 90, a Fort Worth-area district that is held by Democratic state Rep. Ramon Romero Jr., prompting Thursday’s order.

“Before this court undertakes the ‘unwelcome obligation’ of fashioning a remedial plan, the court must afford the Legislature an opportunity to reapportion during either a 2018 special session or the 2019 regular legislative session,” the panel’s order said.

The judges also set a briefing schedule on whether Texas should be placed under federal oversight to ensure that the rights of minority voters are protected in future voting-related changes.

Lawyers for Texas believe the Supreme Court ruling — which found no evidence that Republican lawmakers drew the districts with the intent to discriminate against minority voters — cleared the state of a “preclearance” requirement under the Voting Rights Act.

The civil rights groups, Democratic politicians and voters who sued over the redistricting maps disagree.

“We believe strongly that a preclearance order is warranted by the longstanding pattern of intentional discrimination by the state of Texas in redistricting and other voting-related matters,” said Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, one of the groups that sued over the political maps drawn after the 2010 census.

Briefs from plaintiffs are due at the San Antonio-based court on Nov. 30, and reply briefs from Texas officials are due Jan. 15, according to the order.

The Supreme Court was acutely divided on the issue.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said that except for Romero’s district, the maps for the Texas House and U.S. House were legally drawn.

“When all the relevant evidence in the record is taken into account, it is plainly insufficient to prove that the 2013 Legislature acted in bad faith and engaged in intentional discrimination,” Alito wrote.

In a bluntly worded dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the majority went out of its way to produce a desired result — a ruling that ignored substantial evidence of intentional discrimination to allow Texas the continued use of “much of its discriminatory maps.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Cruz opens up 9 point lead over O’Rourke, poll finds
Cruz opens up 9 point lead over O’Rourke, poll finds

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has a 9-percentage point lead over challenger U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, according to a poll of likely voters released Tuesday. A Quinnipiac University Poll in August of registered voters — not likely voters — had Cruz, seeking a second term, holding an apparent 6-point lead. In May, another Quinnipiac...
Police say man stole $22 in food from Whole Foods, head-butted guard
Police say man stole $22 in food from Whole Foods, head-butted guard

A man is accused of stealing $22.78 worth of food last week from Whole Foods near downtown Austin and head-butting a security guard when he was confronted outside the store, court documents said. In arrest affidavits filed against Evan Joseph Nesby, Austin police said the 33-year-old walked out of the store on 5th Street and Lamar Boulevard with ...
These are the four state capitals better to live in than Austin, list says
These are the four state capitals better to live in than Austin, list says

How can Austin be both simultaneously the “best place to live in America” and only the fifth-best state capital to call home in the country?  Ask financial services company Smart Asset, which recently compiled a list of the “Best State Capitals to Live In” in 2018. In compiling the list, the site looked at...
Community news: Meetings set on mobility bond projects

TRAVIS COUNTY AUSTIN Mobility bond open house set The Austin Transportation Department will host public open houses this month as part of the 2016 mobility bond for substandard streets. Open houses will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Abiding Love Lutheran Church, 7210 Brush Country Road; 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at Cowan Elementary School, 2817...
Central Health to reconsider budget, hold hearing on Sendero closure
Central Health to reconsider budget, hold hearing on Sendero closure

2 p.m. update: Travis County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to postpone a vote on the county health district’s budget to give the agency time to schedule a public hearing on whether it should close its nonprofit health insurance provider, Sendero Health Plans. Commissioner Jeff Travillion said the extra time will give commissioners...
More Stories