By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday handed a victory to Texas Republicans by reviving electoral districts drawn by the state legislature that had been thrown out by a lower court for diluting the influence of black and Hispanic voters.
In a 5-4 ruling, the conservative-majority court largely accepted the state’s argument that the Republican-led Texas legislature acted in good faith when it adopted new electoral maps in 2013 for state legislative and U.S. congressional seats. Republican President Donald Trump’s administration had backed Texas in the case. The court did rule, however, that one of the state legislature districts was unlawful.
Last September, the high court put on hold two lower court rulings from earlier in 2017 that had invalidated a series of Texas electoral districts. The justices then were divided 5-4, with the conservative justices backing the Texas Republicans and the liberals dissenting.
The maps, adopted in 2013 and challenged by individual voters and civil rights groups representing blacks and Hispanics, were based on court-drawn districts imposed for the 2012 election after prior Republican-draw maps also were tossed as racially discriminatory. But the maps at issue in the case have been in effect throughout the litigation.
The lower court found that the configuration of two U.S. House of Representatives districts violated the Voting Rights Act, a 1965 federal law that protects minority voters and was enacted to address a history of racial discrimination in voting, especially in Southern states. Texas has 36 U.S. House districts, 25 held by Republicans and 11 by Democrats.
The same court found similar faults with Texas state House of Representatives maps.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)