The US Supreme Court on Monday stayed a lower federal court order invalidating two congressional districts. The US District Court for the Western District of Texas had found Districts 27 and 35 invalid pursuant to the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, after finding that the two districts were drawn with an intention to undermine minority voters. Specifically, judges Smith, Garcia and Rodriguez declared District 27 invalid, concluding that it was drawn to deny Hispanic voters the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, and District 35 invalid after finding that race was a primary factor in the drawing of the district. The lower court had scheduled a hearing to begin the process of redrawing the districts. Texas appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, and this order stays that hearing. This stay order comes solely from Justice Samuel Alito, who generally handles emergency appeals from Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. The order is only one sentence long and stays the hearing pending a response from the plaintiffs challenging the redistricting, which is due by 3:00 PM on September 5.
Voting rights and how congressional districts are drawn have become increasingly contentious issues over the past few years. In June the Supreme Court agreed to hear a Wisconsin gerrymandering case. Earlier the same month, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision striking down a North Carolina state House and Senate redistricting effort as racial gerrymandering that disproportionately impacted black voters. In May, the Supreme Court ruled in Cooper v. Harris that North Carolina’s redistricting of Districts 1 and 12 was unconstitutional because the state “made no attempt to justify race-based districting there.” In January, the Department of Justice sued Detroit suburbs over a potential Voting Rights Act violation regarding the ability of minorities to elect other minority members as council members. In April 2016, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld an Arizona commission’s decisions regarding the redistricting of voting districts in the state