A three-judge panel in Washington on Tuesday rejected the state of Texas’ request for a new political redistricting map, setting the stage for a court fight.
“The State of Texas used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice,” the judges, U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Thomas Griffith and U.S. District Judges Rosemary Collyer and Beryl Howell, wrote in their order (PDF).
In July, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a civil complaint (PDF) in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking a declaratory judgment that the map did not violate the Voting Rights Act. Under the law, Texas is one of a handful of states required to seek preclearance for any “standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting.”
The lawsuit was an attempt by the state to circumvent the Department of Justice.
Carved out by Republicans in the state legislature and approved by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), the map would have created four new districts in time for the 2012 election cycle. The state now has to return to the drawing board and resubmit a revised map by the end of November.
"The State of Texas passed redistricting plans that are fair and legal,” Lauren Bean, deputy communications director for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said in a statement. “The Texas House and Congressional maps actually increase the number of districts where minority voters can control the outcome of an election. The Court's decision today does not conclude otherwise, nor does it reject Texas' maps--but instead simply requires a trial on the merits of the Texas redistricting map."