By a vote of 5–4, the Supreme Court on Monday handed Texas Republicans a victory by rejecting a lower court decision which said that a number of the state’s majority-Republican congressional districts had been drawn specifically to undercut the voting rights of people of color.
In the majority opinion for the case—officially Abbott v. Perez—conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the lower court’s “reasoning was critically flawed” when it ruled that 11 congressional and state legislative districts were unconstitutionally gerrymandered to the detriment of black and Latinx voters. Those districts were enacted in 2013 after the state’s previous map was also found to be racially biased.
“When the congressional and state legislative districts are reviewed under the proper legal standards, all but one of them, we conclude, are lawful,” Alito concluded. The one Texas House district deemed unconstitutional is currently held by Democratic Rep. Ramon Romero.
In her dissent, Justice Sonya Stotomayor did not mince words as to the intent and subsequent effect of Texas’ gerrymandering efforts:
After years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process. Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will. The fundamental right to vote is too precious to be disregarded in this manner.
In both states, the flawed districts will likely remain in effect throughout the upcoming 2018 elections.