UPDATED: U.S. Supreme Court rejects redistricting maps drawn by San Antonio Court

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The U.S. Supreme Court this morning rejected the redistricting maps drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio.

The San Antonio court should have created a map that looks more like the ones passed last year by the Legislature, the high court said.

Because the San Antonio court “had the benefit of a recently enacted plan to assist it, the court had neither the need nor the license to cast aside that vital aid,” the Supreme Court said in its opinion.

None of the justices dissented as the court issued its opinion without a stated author. Justice Clarence Thomas, however, wrote a concurring opinion.

“Texas’ duly enacted redistricting plans should govern the upcoming elections,” Thomas said.

He also reiterated the whole court’s opinion to vacate the interim orders of the San Antonio court to use the maps it drew for the 2012 elections.

The San Antonio court had taken it upon itself to draw interim maps for the U.S. House, Texas House and state Senate because of the slow-moving pre-clearance process that has still not concluded in a federal court in Washington, D.C. (Texas and many of other mostly southern states must have any changes to election process approved or “pre-cleared” by the federal government because of a past history of discrimination.)

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott cheered the high court’s opinion today.

The high court’s ruling essentially says that district courts should not be part of the policy-making process, he said. They are “ill-suited” for it, Abbott said, echoing the opinion of the Supreme Court.

Nina Perales, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which is suing the state in the San Antonio court, said today that she was not discouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Perales said she’s pleased that the Supreme Court’s ruling directs the San Antonio court to re-draw the maps and make sure the districts they create comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Based on past testimony from the San Antonio trial, Perales is confident that several of the districts that Legislature created would not be part of the subsequent maps, she said.

The Texas redistricting saga began last year when the GOP-controlled Legislature passed maps that sought to legally bolster Republican representation. As expected, several civil rights groups and other people sued the state in federal court in San Antonio for making maps that they said diluted the minority vote. The San Antonio court held a trial but reserved judgment until another federal court – this one in Washington, D.C. – considered pre-clearing the state’s maps. The Washington court is now in the midst of the trial. But with no decision and looming primaries, which were moved to April 3, the San Antonio court drew interim maps – the same ones the Supreme Court today rejected.

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