Several members of the Supreme Court appeared frustrated on Monday as they surveyed the available options and looming deadlines in a major voting rights case from Texas that could help decide control of the House. The case is a result of a population boom in Texas, which gained more than four million people in the last decade, about 65 percent of them Hispanic. The growth entitles the state to four additional Congressional seats.
The Texas Legislature, controlled by Republicans, enacted new electoral maps for both state houses the federal House of Representatives in May and June to take account of the growth in population, and Gov. Rick Perry signed them into law in July. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, though, the maps may not be used until they are approved, or “precleared,” by either the Justice Department or a special three-judge court in Washington. Texas officials chose to go to court, and they have so far not received clearance.
In the meantime, a second special three-judge federal court, this one in San Antonio, Tex., drew a competing set of electoral maps when Texas failed to obtain prompt federal clearance. The question for the Supreme Court justices is whether the court-drawn maps give enough deference to the Legislature’s choices. The answer may help determine whether the new districts elect Democrats or Republicans.