The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to hear arguments on whether federal and state district maps discriminate against people of color, the third legal bout over gerrymandering picked up by the court this term.
The justices opted to take up an appeal by Republican lawmakers in the state, who had sought to overturn two lower-court rulings that would’ve required them to redraw portions of Texas’ maps in order to address alleged infractions of voting rights. The move will delay immediate action on redistricting in the state, a victory for GOP officials in Texas.
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The high court, in a split 5-4 vote along ideological lines in September, had blocked a lower-court ruling that the state’s maps, adopted in 2013, were partially a product of intentional racial discrimination. The lower ruling would’ve required state officials to redraw the maps or face the prospect of having the Supreme Court settle the matter.
The case becomes the third gerrymandering dispute on the Supreme Court’s docket this term, with the justices picking up cases on political redistricting in Wisconsin in October and Maryland in December. The case in Texas is the first to thrust racial discrimination in state maps, and its impact on voters of color, onto the high court’s schedule this term.
The Supreme Court also faces the prospects of making decisions on two additional redistricting cases, in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where legal battles over state maps are brewing.
Federal judges in Pennsylvania, in a 2-1 vote on Wednesday, upheld a ruling that the state’s congressional district map is constitutional. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, however, have indicated they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court.
In North Carolina earlier this week, a panel of federal judges tossed out the state’s congressional map, citing unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering, a move that gave officials just two weeks to adopt a new map. Republican officials in the state indicated they would seek an appeal to the Supreme Court.
State authorities in North Carolina on Friday asked the high court to stay the federal judges’ ruling, though the court has yet to act.