As many expected, a three-judge federal court panel in Washington, D.C., ruled this afternoon that the new Congressional map drawn by the Texas Legislature this cycle did not pass muster with the preclearance section of the Voting Rights Act.
This means the 2011 map the Texas Legislature passed into law is not valid and that Texas must start from scratch on drawing a new, long-term map in the 2013 legislative session.
The map that is being used for the fall elections is not this map. The interim map in use was drawn by a court in San Antonio and will remain in place for the upcoming election.
Michael Li, the writer of the influential Texas Redistricting blog, had an early read on the decision and wrote that it "appears to be a sweeping win for the [Justice Department]."
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office issued a statement criticizing the ruling.
"Today's decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution," the press release said. "The Attorney General's Office will continue defending the maps enacted by the Texas Legislature and will immediately take steps to appeal this flawed decision to the U.S. Supreme Court."
According to Democratic consultant Matt Angle, the lines of the interim map that is currently in use will serve as "a benchmark" for all future maps. Angle is the director of the Lone Star Project, which has been involved in the litigation of the Texas map on behalf of Democrats.