WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court (search) refused Monday to consider if Texas Republicans went too far last year in their strategy to enact new GOP-friendly congressional boundaries.
The congressional map that could give Texas Republicans six more seats cleared the state Legislature after months of turmoil and two walkouts by Democrats.
Despite absent Democratic colleagues, Republican Senate leaders were able to get redistricting plans up for votes by bypassing the traditional requirement that two-thirds of the 31 senators had to agree to call up a bill before debates could begin.
The 11 Senate Democrats who had fled Texas for weeks filed a lawsuit arguing that the policy change violated the federal Voting Rights Act (search), which protects minority voters. They lost in a lower court and asked the Supreme Court to consider the case.
Justices affirmed the lower court finding. The court had also refused earlier this year to block congressional elections under the new map, which Democrats and minority groups argue tramples the rights of Hispanic and black voters.
The case is among multiple appeals at the Supreme Court over the Texas 32-district map, which has been cleared by the Justice Department and upheld by a three-judge federal panel.
Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz disputed that there was a procedure change, because the practice of having two thirds of the senators agree before taking up a bill is not written into the Senate rules. He told justices in a filing that states should be allowed to handle their decision-making without federal interference.
The Democrats' attorney, Paul M. Smith, said it was bizarre that Texas would deny what is a 100-year practice for Senate legislating.
"It is reminiscent of the approach taken in the Deep South in the pre-Voting Rights Act days, when many officials argued that their voting procedures were not discriminatory, it was just that blacks kept failing racially neutral literacy tests," Smith wrote in court papers.
Texas' previous districts had been drawn by judges after the 2000 census, because state lawmakers failed to agree on a plan.
The case is Barrientos v. Texas, 03-756.