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SCOTUS refuses to stay order requiring new congressional districts

2016 congressional map

Just hours after state lawmakers had approved new congressional voting districts yesterday, as required after a three-judge federal panel found the 2011 maps to be unconstitutional radical gerrymanders, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to step into the lawsuit challenging those districts and refused to block enforcement of the panel’s order.

The state’s application to the high court went initially to Chief Justice John Roberts, who then referred it to the full court. Although their ruling comes after the General Assembly had already redrew the congressional districts and thus was to some degree not necessary, the ruling does signal that a majority on the high court believed the 2011 districts to be constitutionally deficient — as there was no indication that the justices were otherwise split 4-4.

According to some, the new map may also be deficient. The federal panel found that state lawmakers used race as the controlling factor when drawing the 2011 maps. Democrats in the General Assembly have been highly critical of the new voting districts, which the Republican majority created without any consideration of race at all. That too is likely a violation of the Voting Rights Act, they say.

Election law expert Rick Hasen agrees, writing that the three-judge panel may reject the new plan as well on that basis.

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