The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a serious setback to those hoping Texas would see new congressional and House district maps ahead of the 2018 elections. In separate orders issued Tuesday, the high court blocked two lower court rulings that invalidated parts of those maps where lawmakers were found to have discriminated against voters of color. The justices’ 5-4 decisions stay the rulings — which would have required new maps — as they take up an appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented from the majority opinion. The development could upend efforts to get a new map in place ahead of the 2018 elections. After years of legal wrangling, Texans and the minority rights groups suing over the maps were finally set to hash out new maps in court last week, but those hearings were canceled as the Supreme Court asked for responses from the minority rights groups to the state’s emergency request for the high court to intervene.
The state argued in a legal brief that if the Supreme Court allowed the redrawing of the state’s proposed maps to move forward ahead of the election, the court risked throwing “the Texas election deadlines into chaos for the second time this decade.”
Election administrators have said they need clarity on district boundaries by October to meet timelines to prepare and send out voter registration certificates and avoid electoral delays.
Minority rights groups suing the state rebutted those claims, arguing that “the right to legal districts prevails” when choosing between delaying electoral deadlines and addressing “voters’ ongoing harm” under the current maps.