WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court said Monday it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.
The 2003 boundaries helped Republicans win 21 of the state's 32 seats in Congress in the last election-- up from 15. They were approved amid a nasty battle between Republican leaders and Democrats and minority groups in Texas.
The contentiousness also reached Washington, where the Justice Department approved the plan, although staff lawyers concluded that it diluted minority voting rights. Because of historic discrimination against minority voters, Texas is required to get Justice Department approval for any voting changes to ensure they don't undercut minority voting.
Justices will consider a constitutional challenge to the boundaries filed by various opponents. The court will hear two hours of arguments, likely in April, in four separate appeals.
The legal battle at the Supreme Court was over the unusual timing of the Texas redistricting, among other things. Under the Constitution, states must adjust their congressional district lines every 10 years to account for population shifts.
But in Texas the boundaries were redrawn twice after the 2000 census, first by a court, then by state lawmakers in a second round promoted by DeLay.
DeLay had to step down as House Majority Leader earlier this year after he was indicted in Texas on state money laundering charges.
DeLay and two people who oversaw his fundraising activities are accused of funneling prohibited corporate political money through the national Republican Party to state GOP legislative candidates. Texas law prohibits spending corporate money on the election or defeat of a candidate.
The alleged scheme was part of a plan DeLay helped set in motion to help Republicans win control of the Texas House in 2002 elections. The Republican Legislature then adopted a DeLay-backed congressional voting district map.
The new map was used in 2004 elections, and Texas elected one additional black congressman besides the six additional GOP members. Of the 32 seats, six delegation members are Hispanic and three are black.
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