Naked City

Redistricting: up to Scalia

On Jan. 9, plaintiffs' attorneys in the federal lawsuit over congressional redistricting, following a pro forma rejection from the federal district court, filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay or an injunction of the new plan, upheld in district court Jan. 6. The plaintiff's appellate brief argues that the 2-1 lower court decision erred in failing to overrule the map as a middecade "extreme partisan gerrymander"; that it misread legal precedent concerning the Voting Rights Act and therefore allowed the dismantling of protected minority influence districts; that it mistakenly considered only "intentional" discrimination as a potential violation of the VRA; and that it allowed an impermissible "racial gerrymander" in the creation of new "Hispanic opportunity" District 25, stretching from Northeast Austin 300 miles to McAllen and the Mexican border.

The brief justified a stay pending appeal of the verdict to the full court on these grounds because, it argues, more damage will be done by allowing congressional elections to proceed under the new map than to leave in place the map drawn in 2001 by a federal court. If the court agrees to take the case, the brief asserts, it should maintain the prior districts while it considers the evidence. At worst, that would mean a two-year delay in implementing the new map -- while allowing the March 9 primary to proceed using the new map would lead to yet more disruption of Texas elections in 2006 if the Supreme Court throws out or orders further changes to the plan.

Asked about the odds on the appeal, attorney Renea Hicks, who represented the city of Austin and Travis Co. as plaintiffs before the district court, said, "I'm not optimistic but I'm not pessimistic. This map is a more blatant partisan gerrymander than the Pennsylvania case [currently pending at the Supreme Court], and there are Voting Rights Act issues connected to Georgia v. Ashcroft [the decision last year that established a precedent for protecting minority "influence" districts]. And Judge [T. John] Ward's dissent, now that I've had a chance to review it in detail, is much broader than has been reported. There are arguments here for a stay ... clearly the map turns black voters into cannon fodder in the politically partisan redistricting, and that's very troublesome."

The request for an appeal initially rests with Justice Antonin Scalia, who has court responsibility for Texas. His decision is expected shortly -- the congressional filing deadline is Friday, Jan. 16. The court could also reject the stay, but agree to take the case (perhaps combining it with the Pennsylvania case), and the elections would proceed under the new map, pending the court's decision.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

  • More of the Story

  • Naked City

    Naked City

    Temple-Inland's proposal has enviros -- and hillside neighbors -- seeing red

    Naked City

    Poll: If Limbaugh did the crime, he should do the time

    Naked City

    Bush's vague guest-worker scheme gets mixed local reviews

    Naked City

    The former APD assistant chief goes job-hunting at the TABC
  • Naked City

    The Austin Area Heritage Council's annual celebration

    Naked City

    Their plan calls for lots of new student housing -- but all in one place

    Naked City

    The crop of GOP hopefuls for the Austin-to-Houston district thickens

    Naked City

    The next Travis Co. election (major party primary) is March 9. The voter registration deadline is Monday, Feb. 9.

    Naked City

    Under fire from minorities, the school drops its "legacy" admissions program

    Naked City

    Interfering with black voting rights -- it's the Lone Star way!

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Redistricting
As Texas Redistricting Maps Advance, Lawmakers Aspire for Newly Drawn Seats
As Texas Redistricting Maps Advance, Lawmakers Aspire for Newly Drawn Seats
Talarico goes south, Doggett west, as Casar trades up

Mike Clark-Madison, Oct. 22, 2021

New Austin Congressional District Would Help Protect GOP Incumbents
New Austin Congressional District Would Help Protect GOP Incumbents
New TX 37 has a 73.8% Democratic vote share. We should be happy, right?

Mike Clark-Madison, Oct. 1, 2021

More by Michael King
<i>Hope and Hard Truth: A Life in Texas Politics</i>
Hope and Hard Truth: A Life in Texas Politics
Life beyond the governor’s office with Ann Richards’ chief aide

Sept. 2, 2022

Embattled Doctor Prevails Against the Texas Medical Board
Embattled Doctor Prevails Against the Texas Medical Board
The little guy wins

June 24, 2022


redistricting, Voting Rights Act, Renea Hicks, Georgia v. Ashcroft, T. John Ward, Antonin Scalia

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle