The ruling striking down the maps was made late Friday. It is the latest development in a long-running and racially charged redistricting case that locked Democratic lawmakers, minority groups, the Obama administration and the Texas Republican leadership in a legal battle for nearly six years. Democrats and civil-rights lawyers accused the majority-white Texas Republican leadership of drawing district maps in ways that diluted the voting power of Democratic-leaning minority voters, accusations that Republicans denied.The State of Texas argued that political party might have been involved in drawing districts, but not race/ethnicity. That is important because the U.S. Supreme Court has generally ruled that you can do almost anything in drawing boundaries as long as race/ethnicity isn't involved. So, this case is likely to wind up in the Supreme Court, and we'll have to see what happens. However, one possibility of this ruling is that Texas could be back under federal supervision with respect to Congressional district boundaries.
Texas had been one of several mostly Southern states that required federal approval before making changes to its voting laws, because of the states’ history of discrimination. But the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling that struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act freed Texas and the other states and localities from requiring advance federal permission before changing their voting procedures, a process known as preclearance.
The Supreme Court’s decision left intact provisions of the Voting Rights Act that allow federal courts to put a state or jurisdiction back under preclearance if it is found to have intentionally discriminated against minorities.Keep in mind that race/ethnicity is not the only criterion that courts look at with respect to state-level legislative districts. I noted last November that a federal court ruled that Wisconsin had gerrymandered its legislative district boundaries and in January a federal judge ordered the state to redraw those boundaries.