The Supreme Court on Friday instructed a lower court in Texas to take a fresh look at election maps it had drawn in place of a competing set of maps from the Texas Legislature. The justices said the lower court had not paid enough deference to the Legislature’s choices and had improperly substituted its own values for those of elected officials. The court’s unanimous decision extends the uncertainty surrounding this major voting-rights case, which could help determine control of the House of Representatives.
“To avoid being compelled to make such otherwise standardless decisions,” the Supreme Court’s unsigned decision said, “a district court should take guidance from the state’s recently enacted plan in drafting an interim plan. That plan reflects the state’s policy judgments on where to place new districts and how to shift existing ones in response to massive population growth.” Justice Clarence Thomas issued a concurring opinion, saying he would have instructed the elections to proceed under the Legislature’s maps.
The justices acted just 11 days after hearing arguments in the case. Primaries in Texas had already been moved back to April. For those primaries to proceed, officials there said, an answer from the courts was needed by Feb. 1. The two competing sets of maps set out the borders of election districts in Texas for the State Legislature and the House of Representatives on the basis of the most recent 10-year census.