A closely divided Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state of Texas on Tuesday night, freezing a lower court opinion that had invalidated two congressional districts and state house districts in four counties. The ruling means the current state electoral maps will stay in effect pending appeal.
The ruling is a victory – for now – for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who had argued that the lower court opinion would have thrown “the electoral process in disarray” because districts must be determined by October 1.
“The lower court here struck down the maps as an intentional racial gerrymander,” said Joshua A. Douglas an election law expert at the University of Kentucky College of Law. “Although just a preliminary decision that puts the lower court’s decision on hold, the 5-4 split indicates that the map’s challengers may have a tough time before the Justices when the (Supreme) Court eventually hears this case.”
The four liberal justices on the court – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – noted that they would have denied Texas’ request.
Allison Riggs, senior voting rights attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, who represents the challengers in the case, said she was disappointed by the “inexplicable ruling.”
“However, we look forward to voters in Texas and the court below being vindicated when the Supreme Court hears all the facts in this case and realizes that Texas sought to purposefully minimize the political power of voters of color,” she added.