The Supreme Court on Monday largely upheld an array of congressional and state legislative districts in Texas, reversing trial court rulings that said the districts violated the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against voters on the basis of race. The vote was 5 to 4, with the court’s more conservative members in the majority. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing for the majority, said the trial court had “committed a fundamental legal error” by requiring state officials to justify their use of voting maps that had been largely drawn by the trial court itself. In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the majority opinion represented a dark day for voting rights. The Constitution and the Voting Rights Act “secure for all voters in our country, regardless of race, the right to equal participation in our political processes,” she wrote. “Those guarantees mean little, however, if courts do not remain vigilant in curbing states’ efforts to undermine the ability of minority voters to meaningfully exercise that right.”
“The court today does great damage to that right of equal opportunity,” she wrote. “Not because it denies the existence of that right, but because it refuses its enforcement.”
A three-judge panel of the Federal District Court in San Antonio had ruled that a congressional district including Corpus Christi denied Hispanic voters “their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” The court rejected a second congressional district stretching from San Antonio to Austin, saying that race had been the primary factor in drawing it. In a separate decision, the court found similar flaws in several state legislative districts.
he Supreme Court reversed almost every part of those rulings, though it did hold that a state House district in Tarrant County was an impermissible racial gerrymander.