Supreme Court dismisses challenge to Texas state legislative maps
Texas’ governor-elect, Greg Abbott, has asked the Texas Supreme Court to reject a challenge to two state legislative map proposals, both of which seek a major new districting change involving Houston.
Here’s its ruling:
The state Court of Appeals has dismissed the challenge to the Texas Legislature’s redistricting map proposals, on the basis that they are “a subject to public debate protected by the First Amendment.” The court said that its ruling would not necessarily stop the challengers from arguing that their proposals are unconstitutional in court.
The court made its ruling about the first map proposal in February, when Texas had already finished voting on a plan that would move about 400,000 people out of their current districts and put them in new ones stretching farther west than is allowed by the existing map.
The court’s action came after it agreed to hear the case, but then it took the unusual step of making one-paragraph rulings that left the decision as to whether it’s a “good case” for the court to take—unusual because the justices normally make decisions based on the arguments of the parties.
In that decision, the justices cited the “longstanding principle” that “even when government is doing something that by its nature imposes a burden on speech that is greater than that imposed by the state’s own speech regulations—in other words, even when government is making a major speech-related adjustment to its own speech restrictions—we find it fair to say that the Constitution does not require the government to retreat to its alternative speech-related means.”
They also cited the “longstanding principle” that it’s improper to rule on the merits only after the issue has been fully developed, saying that “in determining whether it is a good case, we look to see whether the issues are capable of resolution without extensive factfinding or the need for extensive expert testimony.”
The court was also asked to rule on whether the challengers could force the Texas Legislature to adopt a new map without changing its current legislative districts. It found that, while “unlikely,” the challengers could make a showing that they