The Associated Press
Columbia | An attorney representing black voters in South Carolina says a federal court ruling on Texas' voting maps bolsters his appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said he's encouraged by a ruling Tuesday from the U.S. District Court in Washington, which found that district maps drawn and approved by Texas' Republican-controlled Legislature don't comply with the federal Voting Rights Act. The three-judge panel found evidence of discrimination in new lines drawn for that state's congressional and state Senate districts, saying prosecutors failed to prove they were drawn “without discriminatory purposes.”
“This court ruled totally consistent with the position we took,” Harpootlian said. “It's right on the money. We think it's great.”
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tuesday's ruling stands in contrast to one March 9 by three federal judges in South Carolina, who found that newly drawn lines for South Carolina's congressional and state House seats are fair and don't discriminate. That decision allowed South Carolina's primary process to continue on schedule. The U.S. Justice Department had already cleared South Carolina's maps.
Harpootlian represents six black voters from Florence, Sumter, Georgetown, Berkeley, Darlington and Charleston counties. They claimed the GOP-dominated Legislature drew lines that segregate white and black voters into election districts and pack black voters into one congressional district, creating “voting apartheid.”
But the federal panel in South Carolina disagreed after two days of testimony, saying plaintiffs provided no convincing evidence that legislators drew the lines to dilute the voting power of blacks. Days later, Harpootlian appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Harpootlian said the nation's high court now has two opposing rulings that beg for a resolution.
Whether the justices take the case is not in question. They must issue a ruling on the Voting Rights-related case, though they have the option of upholding or reversing it without a briefing.
The attorney for South Carolina's Republican lawmakers, Rob Tyson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, was at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., and could not immediately be reached.
Redistricting is a once-a-decade process to make sure political district lines reflect population changes as shown by the U.S. Census. Proposed maps for South Carolina and other Southern states require federal approval under the Voting Rights Act because of a history of inequitable treatment of black voters.