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papau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-14-05 12:15 PM
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High court observers see (Texas) redistricting case as pivotal
U.S Supreme Court had tried to steer clear of the issue, but now the High Court will now hear sides in the Texas redistricting case.
Dec. 14, 2005, 12:35AM

High court observers see redistricting case as pivotal
Political expert says a look at gerrymandering could be 'historic'

Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court, historically reluctant to wade into what it has called the "political thicket" of redistricting cases, has now jumped in with both feet.

Legal and political experts said Tuesday that the implications for Texas and the nation, not to mention for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, could be enormous.

On Monday, the court agreed to hear arguments in four cases challenging the 2003 Texas redistricting plan that sent six more Republicans to Congress in the last election. The challengers will try to convince the justices next spring that the new map should not have been redrawn when it was and that it violates the federal Voting Rights Act and the Constitution by diluting minority voting strength and favoring Republican candidates.
DeLay's role in the controversial Texas redistricting resulted in his being rebuked by the House ethics committee. DeLay was also forced to step down from his leadership post and indicted on money laundering charges after he was accused of illegally diverting funds to the campaigns of Texas lawmakers responsible for redrawing the map.

"The redistricting cases cannot be seen outside the context of the indictment of DeLay and the investigation into (former lobbyist Jack) Abramoff," said Julian Zelizer, a Boston University history professor and author of a book on congressional scandals. "The bigger story here is whether Republicans are misusing their power to maintain their power, and how the court will address that."<snip>
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papau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-14-05 12:18 PM
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1. Stakes sky high as court weighs how partisan process can get
Among the issues in the Texas redistricting case:
Excessive gerrymandering: The Supreme Court has yet to set clear rules for how much boundary lines can be shifted for partisan reasons.
Mid-decade redistricting: The tradition of redrawing lines once per decade rather than twice, as in Texas isn't law, but many legal authorities assumed that was the only option.
Minority rights: Texas gained one black lawmaker under the new map, but in two other districts, the ability of black and Hispanic voters to control the outcome was watered down.
The 2003 remap, following a court-produced remap completed in 2001 after lawmakers couldn't agree, was engineered by Tom DeLay, then House majority leader. This spring, the Supreme Court will hear four cases involving complaints by Democrats that the 2003 redesigned map is unconstitutional. Among possible outcomes, justices could:
Affirm the lower court decision and accept the map as Texas Republicans redrew it in 2003.
Throw out the 2003 DeLay map, forcing Texas to revert to the 2001 court-approved boundaries for the 2006 elections.
Return the case to the Legislature, ordering it to redraw districts by some formula the court decides.
Decide which specific districts violate the Voting Rights Act and order new primary elections in areas with reconfigured boundaries.

Justices take up Texas remap
Stakes sky high as court weighs how partisan process can get
09:53 PM CST on Monday, December 12, 2005
By ALLEN PUSEY and TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON In a move that could redefine the limits of partisan politics, the U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it will hear four Texas cases challenging the redrawing of congressional districts two years ago by the Republican-dominated Legislature.

The court also agreed to expedite the four cases, filed by minorities, Democratic officeholders and others who say they have been disenfranchised by the GOP-drawn districts.

The court gave no reason for accepting the appeals, which involve a wide range of highly charged allegations: from "excessive partisan gerrymandering" and mid-decade redistricting to the dilution of minority votes. Just last year, the court ruled in a split vote that a Pennsylvania redistricting plan though highly partisan could not be resolved by the courts on a complaint that the process was simply too political.

Since then, the court has entered a transition, with a new chief justice on the bench and an associate justice about to be replaced. <snip>
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papau Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-14-05 12:19 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. NYT version: Redistricting Tom DeLay
editorial urges the Supreme Court to reverse DeLay's 2003 plan for redistricting Texas.
Redistricting Tom DeLay
Published: December 14, 2005

The Supreme Court agreed this week to review Texas' 2003 Congressional redistricting, which added five Republicans to the state's delegation. The plan, engineered by the former House majority leader Tom DeLay, is rightly being challenged as partisan and discriminatory against minority voters. It is encouraging that the court has decided to step in.

Mr. DeLay's 2003 redrawing of Texas' Congressional district lines threw aside the longstanding tradition that new lines are drawn only every 10 years, after the census. The purpose of this heavy-handed line-drawing was purely to increase the number of Republican districts. It worked. The number of Republicans in the delegation went to 21 from 16, helping to entrench Mr. DeLay as majority leader.

The Supreme Court expressed reluctance last year, in a case challenging Pennsylvania's Congressional district boundaries, to second-guess partisan redistricting. But Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the crucial fifth vote against allowing the case to proceed, wrote separately to say that the court might act differently in a future redistricting case if "workable standards" could be found. The extraordinarily bare-knuckled Texas redistricting provides another chance to develop such standards. The vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, whose views on partisan redistricting are not known, could also be pivotal.

The Texas case also raises unusually strong claims that the voting strength of minority voters was illegally diluted. According to a recently uncovered memo, the eight career Justice Department employees assigned to review the plan in 2003 unanimously concluded that it violated the Voting Rights Act. But political appointees at Justice overruled their objections and approved it anyway.<snip>
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