Rick Perry may have struck out in the Republican primary race, but he may have just hit a home run with the Supreme Court. Via Huffington Post: In a partial victory for Texas Republicans, the Supreme Court on Friday morning sent Texas'
January 22, 2012

Rick Perry may have struck out in the Republican primary race, but he may have just hit a home run with the Supreme Court.

Via Huffington Post:

In a partial victory for Texas Republicans, the Supreme Court on Friday morning sent Texas' redistricting maps back to the drawing board.

The high court's unsigned, unanimous opinion in the linked cases of Perry v. Perez and Perry v. Davis threw out interim state and congressional district maps drawn up by a three-judge federal court in San Antonio, Texas. The lower court had drawn up the interim maps when civil rights groups challenged the original maps created by the Republican-controlled state legislature as unlawfully discriminating against minority voters.

The basic question the court was asked to resolve was this: Is the Texas court obligated to consider any part of the legislatively-drawn maps or did it have the right to begin anew, without regard to them?

The Supreme Court said yes, the 3 justices who redrew the legislatively-drawn maps should have considered them when they redrew boundaries to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

That does not mean, however, that the San Antonio court must now accept all of the judgments made by the Texas legislature in drawing up the original maps. "A district court making such use of a State's plan must, of course, take care not to incorporate into the interim plan any legal defects in the state plan," the Court wrote.

It is not entirely clear how the San Antonio court, now charged with redrawing its interim maps, will determine which parts of the state legislature's plans are legally proper -- and therefore must be maintained -- and which can be disregarded in advance of the still-pending final determination from the D.C. court.

"The need to avoid prejudging the merits of preclearance is satisfied by taking guidance from a State's policy judgments unless they reflect aspects of the state plan that stand a reasonable probability of failing to gain [Section 5] preclearance," the Court held, reflecting a suggestion made by Justice Elena Kagan at oral argument. "And by 'reasonable probability' this Court means in this context that the [Section 5] challenge is not insubstantial."

"Not insubstantial" is hardly a well-defined standard. If the San Antonio court is lucky, the D.C. court, which held hearings this week on the Texas plans' legality, will make its final decision in time for the Texas legislature itself to redraw its maps before the state's primary, now scheduled for April.

Otherwise, this case could very well head back to the Supreme Court, forcing the primary to be delayed again. And that is to say nothing of the underlying problems that Texas and other states subject to preclearance have with the burden of Section 5.

Meanwhile, it's not clear all of this will be done by April, which is when the Texas primary election is scheduled.

Think Progress summarizes the partisan impact of the decision:

The partisan upshot of this decision is that it is probably good news for Republicans. In an earlier case called Vieth v. Jubelirer, the Supreme Court largely abdicated oversight over politically motivated gerrymanders, thus enabling political parties to be as aggressive as they want in drawing maps that achieve their partisan goals. Because the Texas legislature is overwhelming dominated by Republicans, today’s decision requiring the lower court to use their map as the baseline in drawing an interim map will increase the likelihood that partisan gerrymandering intended to favor the GOP will remain present in the interim map the lower court eventually produces.

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