The three-judge panel's ruling, handed down Tuesday, is a defeat for U.S. House Republicans. Texas, with 32 congressional districts, is getting four more because of population increases, and the GOP had hoped to add most or all four to its column through favorable redistricting.
Now preliminary redistricting must be done by a federal court in San Antonio.
Under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, areas with a history of discrimination, such as Texas, must submit any changes in voting patterns to the U.S. attorney general or a three-judge panel in Washington for "pre-clearance."
In submitting its plan to the Washington court, Texas said its "proposed redistricting plans for the U.S. House of Representatives, the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas State Senate neither have the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority and otherwise fully comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965," the judge's panel said in its ruling.
The state asked for a quick ruling that its plan could be implemented for the upcoming elections.
But the court panel said after having "carefully considered the entire record and the parties' arguments, the court finds and concludes that the state of Texas used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice and that there are material issues of fact in dispute that prevent this court from entering declaratory judgment that the three redistricting plans meet the requirements" of federal law.
The panel denied summary judgment, meaning Texas' plan must go to trial on the merits.