Election Lawyer: Supreme Court Hearing Texas Redistricting Case Shows Their Partisanship

Kye R. Lee

The nine (or is it eight?) members of the Supreme Court are set to decide whether redistricting maps drawn by a federal court (after separate maps signed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry were found to be discriminatory) can go into effect.

The Supreme Court’s one paragraph order on Friday placed a stay on the implementation of the maps, tossing Texas’s congressional and state legislature elections into chaos. Political observers and participants in the case are still trying to figure out exactly what it means for the election timeline. A hearing is set for Jan. 9.

Gerry Hebert, an election lawyer in D.C. who is working for intervenors in the redistricting case, told TPM that the Supreme Court’s decision shows that they’re “just another governmental institution in Washington that’s highly partisan.”Noting that the Supreme Court denied his request for a stay back in 2003 when he was representing Congressional Democrats in a case involving redistricting maps implemented with support from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Hebert said that the federal court which tossed out the maps that weren’t precleared had “no other option than to do what it did.”

Hebert, who believes the maps drawn by Texas legislators were discriminatory, called the delay caused by the outstanding redistricting issue a “mess of their own making” and said Texas chose the “slowest possible alternative by going to court instead of DOJ.”

While there are several cases making their way through the courts about whether Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (which requires certain areas of the country to have their ) is constitutional, Hebert said he believes the Supreme Court addressing the broader issue is “highly doubtful” but said “anything is possible with this crew.”

The Justice Department had argued that there was “ample circumstantial evidence” (including emails) that the maps had the effect and intent of limiting the voting power of Hispanic voters.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is going to ask a federal court to suspend the deadlines for the filing period for congressional and state House and Senate races.

One Texas legislator’s home is in different districts in various versions of the map. He told the New York Times that everything is up in the air.

“Until the Supreme Court gives us some direction, this is unchartered waters,” freshman state Sen. Jim Landtroop (R) said. “Everything that’s happening now is new. There’s no place to go for guidance.”