Back to the (Redistricting) Drawing Board

You might think that since the Supreme Court made a decision today regarding the ongoing Texas redistricting saga, that, well, something had been decided. But let's just be clear on what is still up in the air:

1. Whether the maps are discriminatory based on the Voting Rights Act

2. The date of the primary, currently scheduled for April 3 with almost no one believing that's a realistic date

3. Just what the district lines will be

If you haven't been following along on this oh-so-fun ride, here's a recap. Last year, the Republican-dominated state legislature passed redistricting maps greatly favoring Republicans. According to the U.S. Census, Texas gained four million new residents, most of whom were Latino. The growth gave the state four new congressional seats, but the state-approved maps gave almost no additional seats or power to minority communities. The Voting Rights Act specifically requires that Texas (and other states with a history of discrimination) get changes to election law precleared. Since the maps the legislature drew had not been precleared yet, a San Antonio panel of federal judges redrew the maps. The new lines still favored Republicans; however, they created more minority-controlled districts.

So what did today's SCOTUS decision do? It threw out the maps drawn by the federal judges, though it did not determine what maps would replace them. In an unsigned decision, the Court maintained the need for preclearance but stipulated that the state plan should "serve as a starting point" for the district court in San Antonio.

It's good news for Republicans, but I doubt anyone's breaking out the champagne soon. No deadline was set for new maps, and the state's primaries have already been delayed until April 3. Unless things move at lightning speed, they'll likely be delayed again, since it takes a while for election officials to get things in order. 

In the meantime, a three-judge court in D.C. will determine whether the maps drawn by the state discriminate against minority communities and thereby violate the Voting Rights Act. Stay tuned, kids, for a plot so complicated and nebulous, you'd think Shonda Rhimes had written it. 

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