The U.S. Supreme Court issued a complex series of six opinions this week in LULAC vs. Perry, which concerned the legality of Texas' political map following the famous mid-decade redistricting plan pushed by former congressman Tom DeLay. On the question of partisan gerrymandering, the Court essentially chose to maintain the status quo, thus handing Texas Republicans a victory and the beleaguered Hammer some small vindication. But much more significant change may be reflected in the Court's opinions related to the Voting Rights Act. The decision signifies changing views about the way race should be used in drawing political districts, with important implications for minority voters across the country.
The good news is that the justices signaled that they believe the Voting Rights Act -- the landmark civil rights legislation created 40 years ago to overcome a legacy of poll taxes, literacy tests and whites-only primaries -- is still needed to protect minority voting strength. But a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy -- confirming his role as swing voter on this issue as on so many others -- heralds a new standard for the law: It's not enough for minority voters to share the same skin color and an ability to elect candidates of their choice (by comprising a majority of the voting population in a district); they must also share other common demographics, like socio-economic status, that lead them to have
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