In a victory for Republicans, all the Republican members of the Supreme Court joined a pair of orders handed down Tuesday, staying a lower court decision which struck down two Republican-drawn districts. All four of the Court’s Democrats would have denied the stay.
Tuesday evening’s orders are the latest development in a long, winding challenge to Texas’ gerrymandered maps. You can read a summary of the many twists and turns in this case, as well as the legal issues before the Supreme Court, here.
The crux of the case is that, last month, a three-judge panel of federal judges held that two Texas congressional districts were illegally drawn — the first because it was intentionally drawn to dilute Hispanic votes, the second because it was drawn with too much reliance on race.
Texas, represented by Republican superlawyer Paul Clement, asked the Supreme Court to stay this decision, arguing that “allowing the State to continue to use [its current maps] for the 2018 elections will impose little harm,” because “if the plaintiffs ultimately prevail before this Court on appeal, a new map could still be drawn in time for the 2020 elections.”
It may very well be true that the Court could affirm the lower court decision in time for the 2020 election, but that will mean that Texas’s 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018 elections will be run under maps of dubious legality. Should the Supreme Court ultimately conclude that the maps are illegal, Texas will still have been able to use those maps in four of the five elections in this redistricting cycle.
After the 2020 census, Texas is required to draw new maps.
It is likely that, if Senate Republicans had not held a seat on the Supreme Court open for more than a year until a Republican president could fill it, that this stay would not have been granted, and the 2018 election would be run under different maps.