The U.S. Supreme Court Won't Hear Texas' Partisan Gerrymandering Case | KERA News

The U.S. Supreme Court Won't Hear Texas' Partisan Gerrymandering Case

Jan 16, 2018
Originally published on January 17, 2018 11:42 am

The U.S. Supreme Court announced today it won’t be hearing a challenge to the state’s political maps from the Texas Democratic Party. In a lawsuit, Democrats claimed state lawmakers drew political boundaries in 2011 in favor of Republicans.

The Supreme Court dismissed the Democrats' appeal on the grounds their arguments weren't presented properly. Part of what justices were asked to consider is whether a lower court made a mistake by dismissing Democrats' partisan gerrymandering claims “without discovery and an evidentiary record," but the high court declined to weigh in.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement after the announcement that, if allowed, Democrats will continue the case "at the next opportunity." 

“Today, the Supreme Court ruled that it does not presently have jurisdiction to hear a partisan gerrymander claim under the unique posture of this complex case," Hinojosa said. "Nonetheless, we anticipate an upcoming opportunity to continue our pursuit of justice for Texas voters."

That opportunity could come, if the Supreme Court rules in partisan gerrymandering cases in Maryland or Wisconsin. Those watching the Texas case had anticipated that the Supreme Court would hold off on the ruling in the Texas Democrats' case until it rules on those cases.

Michael Li, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice, tweeted shortly after the announcement that “the expectation of many had been that SCOTUS would hold the Texas partisan gerrymandering appeal until after deciding the [Wisconsin and Maryland] cases.”

Rick Hasen, a political science and law professor at the University of California-Irvine, also anticipated the hold-off, as well, but says Democrats' could take their case to a lower court after rulings on either the Maryland or Wisconsin gerrymandering cases. 

"In any event, should the Supreme Court decide to rein in partisan gerrymandering in the Wisconsin or the Maryland cases," he wrote on Election Law Blog. "Plaintiffs likely could go back to the lower court and see if they can get some relief, given that this case is not on final judgment, once the Supreme Court is done with them."

The Wisconsin case, in particular, is expected to be a case that could potentially outlaw partisan gerrymandering. As of now, courts have not explicitly outlawed the practice of divvying up political boundaries to favor one party over another.

However, last week the Supreme Court announced it will hear another challenge to Texas' congressional and statehouse maps. Those lawsuits claim state lawmakers gerrymandered on the basis of race. Groups challenging the maps in those cases also claim the state intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters and violated the Voting Rights Act.

So far, federal courts have mostly sided with groups challenging the maps on racial gerrymandering grounds.

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