Supreme Court unanimously tosses judicial-drawn redistricting in Texas

Democrats in Texas lost a big battle at the Supreme Court today, and lost it big, too.  Democrats sued to stop a legislative effort at redistricting that was controlled by Republicans in the state, and had won at the district court level.  The judge in the case selected new maps that favored Democrats in the effort to create the four new House districts allocated to the state through reapportionment following last year’s census.  Texas Republicans challenged that decision — and won a unanimous decision that now demands a resolution of the underlying lawsuit quickly:

The Supreme Court on Friday ruled in a Texas political dispute, rejecting judge-drawn election maps favoring minority candidates and Democrats in the 2012 congressional and state legislature elections.

In its first ruling on political boundary-drawing based on the 2010 U.S. Census, the high court unanimously set aside the interim maps created by federal district court judges in San Antonio. …

The Supreme Court ruled that the judges appeared to have unnecessarily ignored the state’s plans in drawing certain districts and those maps can at least be used as a starting point.

“Some aspects of the district court’s plans seem to pay adequate attention to the state’s policies, others do not and the propriety of still others is unclear,” the court held in its opinion.

The court declined to order the lower court to adopt the maps drawn by the legislators, however.  That means that Texas doesn’t have a map for this year’s Congressional election while the lower court considers the lawsuit from Democrats.  The decision puts a lot of pressure on the court to make a decision soon, so that Texas can start the political process of choosing its candidates not just for the new districts but for all 36 Texas districts in the House, as well as for the state legislature.

Given that the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the judge’s ideas for redistricting and there won’t be much time left for the legislature to act, that means that the court’s best option is to tell Democrats that they lost the last several elections and have to live with the consequences.  Redistricting is a political process, not a judicial process, and the Court’s unanimous rejection of judicial intervention on the basis of an intrusion on legislative prerogative, at least to some extent, is a warning signal against judicial activism.