Rethinking Texas's Redistricting
The Supreme Court stepped into Texas' redistricting mess this week, telling a lower court to reconsider its ruling upholding the state's new Congressional districts. The court's action comes too late to change the lines for next month's election. But it raises the welcome possibility that the current Congressional districts, which were redrawn in an unusual mid-decade redistricting, will eventually be declared unconstitutional. It also gives hope that the court will become more willing to strike down legislative districts that are gerrymandered for blatantly political reasons.
After the 2000 census, Texas redrew its Congressional lines, as it was required to, to reflect population shifts. But in 2003, after Republicans took control of the state government, they redistricted again, drawing new lines that broke up safe Democratic seats and swooping around the state to scoop up Republican voters - all to increase the Republican share of the Texas Congressional delegation.
The redistricting fight became so bitter that Democratic legislators fled the state, hiding out in neighboring Oklahoma, and the Republicans sent state troopers after them. Earlier this month, the House ethics committee admonished the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, for telling Federal Aviation Administration officials to look for the missing Democrats.