By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An ideologically divided U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a win to Republicans in Texas by putting on hold rulings that said electoral districts drawn by state lawmakers discriminated against minority voters.
On a 5-4 vote, with the court’s conservatives in the majority and the liberal justices dissenting, the court in a brief order blocked two different lower court decisions that found fault with both congressional districts and state legislative districts drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature.
In August, a federal court in Texas struck down two Republican-drawn congressional districts saying they were discriminatory and ordering new maps to be drawn ahead of elections in 2018.
The court said the 27th and 35th congressional districts were drawn in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. Texas has 36 districts, with Republicans holding 25 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and Democrats 11.
The August decision and a similar ruling on the state legislative districts will both remain on hold, meaning no new districts will be drawn in the interim while the high court considers Texas’ appeal in the cases.
Voting rights advocates say the Republican lawmakers drew up the districts to undermine the influence of racial minority voters, who typically show more support for Democrats than Republicans.