IU Media Relations
IU School of Law-Bloomington
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Supreme Court today (June 28) upheld most of a congressional redistricting plan in Texas, engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, that led to significant Republican gains in the House in 2004. However, the justices also threw out part of the disputed political map, concluding that some of the new boundaries failed to protect minority voting rights.
Luis Fuentes-Rohwer is an associate professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington who researches voting rights, judicial independence and accountability, and democratic theory. He is available to reporters to discuss the high court's ruling.
In LULAC v. Perry, a deeply fractured court found that Texas' new 23rd District violated the Voting Rights Act and had been improperly redrawn to exclude an increasingly active group of Hispanic voters. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said that Hispanics did not have the chance to elect a candidate of their choosing under the plan, which resulted in Republicans gaining six Texas congressional seats two years ago.
The voting rights community had been eagerly awaiting the court's resolution of this case. In the 2004 case of Vieth v. Jubelirer, the court could not settle on a constitutional standard for resolving political gerrymandering questions, and four justices -- Rehnquist, O'Connor, Scalia and Thomas -- argued that the court should not decide these cases at all. In taking a case so soon after Vieth, some scholars wondered whether the court was ready to step in and regulate these highly charged political controversies. Some voting rights advocates have already expressed concern that the court's decision will allow for a new round of gerrymandering in states, in which Republicans and Democrats will battle every couple of years over the redrawing of district lines for political gains.
Rather than decide the Texas cases on constitutional grounds and determine whether the redistricting plan violated the 14th Amendment, the court struck down the 23rd District on statutory grounds. This is significant, said Fuentes-Rohwer, "in the sense that the question of whether political gerrymanders are subject to constitutional review remains open and contested. The facts in LULAC were as clear as any set of facts will ever be, and yet the court set the question aside, for another day." Instead, "the court offered a very nuanced and fact specific application of section two of the Voting Rights Act. What relevance, if any, this opinion will have for the future thus remains to be seen."
Fuentes-Rohwer's publications include "Domesticating the Gerrymander: An Essay on Standards, Fair Representation, and the Necessary Question of Judicial Will," "Doing Our Politics in Court: Gerrymandering, 'Fair Representation' and an Exegesis into the Judicial Role," and "Challenges to Racial Redistricting in the New Millenium: Hunt v. Cromartie as a Case Study." He teaches courses at the law school on the legal profession, election law and the legal process. Fuentes-Rohwer can be reached at 812-855-5003 or firstname.lastname@example.org.