U.S. Supreme Court justices grappled with minority voting rights in Texas’s congressional and state legislative districts, trying to find a quick fix against the backdrop of looming deadlines. During arguments today in Washington, the justices gave no clear answer as to how or when they will rule in the case, which tests the power of judges to redraw voting-district lines and the strength of a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Several justices lamented the lack of an easy answer in a case being considered on an expedited schedule because of the impending Texas primary, set for April 3 after a judge delayed the vote for a month. The justices discussed moving the primary date back further to give the courts handling different aspects of the case more time. “Why can’t this all be pushed back, and wouldn’t that eliminate a lot of the problems we are grappling with in this case?” Justice Samuel Alito asked.
The dispute stems from maps drawn last year by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature after the decennial census. Governor Rick Perry, now a Republican candidate for president, signed the maps into law. A panel of federal judges in San Antonio blocked the Republican plan from taking effect for 2012 and substituted court-drawn interim maps on a 2-1 vote. The majority said the state maps couldn’t be used because they hadn’t received the required federal clearance under the Voting Rights Act.