The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped into the Texas redistricting legal fight, blocking the use of an interim Congressional map for 2012 and scheduling oral arguments in the case for early next month.
The court's one-page order handed down on Friday grants Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's (R) request for an emergency stay to halt implementation of a Democratic-friendly map drawn by a federal court in San Antonio.
Those lines were drawn because the state's initial map — crafted by the GOP-controlled legislature — is in the midst of legal challenges. Abbott argued that federal judges overreached by crafting their own map before the trial over the other map finished.
The high court will hear oral arguments in the case Jan. 9. Texas has the earliest Congressional primary in the country, and it's likely that the Supreme Court intervention will delay those elections that had been slated for early March. The order halts the candidate filing period that began on Nov. 28 and was slated to end on Dec. 15.
“I applaud the Supreme Court’s decision to halt an activist court’s Texas Congressional map drawn to run up the score for Democrats," National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) said in a statement. "From day one, our goal has been fair maps through fair processes, and this Supreme Court hearing will determine what role Texans’ voices play in redistricting."
The stakes of this case, which centers on minority representation, are high for both parties, and the court's actions could have far-reaching implications. Texas gained four new seats through reapportionment this cycle. The state is among the dozen or so that is required under the Voting Rights Act to get pre-clearance approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before any changes to their voting laws, including new maps, are implemented.
This marks the first redistricting-related case this cycle that the high court has agreed to take.