BY RAFAEL BERNAL
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday on whether Texas’s legislature discriminated against Hispanic and black citizens when drawing two congressional districts and a host of legislative ones.
If the court decides against Texas, it could force a redrawing of the map that could have ramifications for the 35th District, now held by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D), and the 27th District, which was formerly represented by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R).
It’s possible some of the House districts surrounding those two could also be affected.
The case dates back to 2011, when Texas’s legislature, controlled by Republicans, first redrew maps in an effort to help the party.
Court battles prevented those district lines from going into effect, with a temporary court-ordered map used instead in the 2012 elections. In 2013, the legislature officially approved the court’s map.
The district court in San Antonio then ruled against the use of those maps, a decision appealed by the state of Texas.
The Supreme Court took up the case on appeal from the state, but it still has to decide whether it has jurisdiction to hear it.
Opponents of the legislative lines argue the state should not have appealed the initial decision directly to the Supreme Court. The battle over whether the court should be hearing the case is likely to be an issue in the oral arguments on Tuesday.
“Two-and-a-half million Texans are impacted, and that’s just in the districts that were declared illegal,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia (D), chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, one of the plaintiffs in the case.
Texas argues that because the state used the court-drawn maps for the 2012 election, the 2011 redistricting plan that was found discriminatory was never implemented.
The plaintiffs argue that those maps continue to discriminate against Hispanic voters, who have ballooned in Texas in the intervening years.
If it does take the case, the court can itself order redistricting and measures to counter other alleged discriminatory practices, or it can side with the state in saying that the 2013 provisional plan fixed the problem.
A result that mandates redistricting could have immediate effects on this year’s midterm elections, as primaries would need to be held to select candidates for any district that changes ahead of November’s general election.
If the court does side with the state, the next opportunity to redraw districts won’t come until after the 2020 census.
“You know, that’s it. If the Supreme Court finds against us, them’s the rules,” said Anchia.