Thursday, February 02, 2023

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Justice SOTOMAYOR, with whom Justice GINSBURG, Justice BREYER, and Justice KAGAN join, dissenting.

The Court today goes out of its way to permit the State of Texas to use maps that the three-judge District Court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps. In reaching its desired result, the majority commits three fundamental errors along the way.

First, the majority disregards the strict limits of our appellate jurisdiction and reads into the District Court orders a nonexistent injunction to justify its premature intervention. Second, the majority indulges Texas' distorted reading of the District Court's meticulous orders, mistakenly faulting the court for supposedly shifting the burden of proof to the State to show that it cured the taint of past discrimination, all the while ignoring the clear language and unambiguous factual findings of the orders below. Third, the majority elides the standard of review that guides our resolution of the factual disputes in these appeals—indeed, mentioning it only in passing—and selectively parses through the facts. As a result of these errors, Texas is guaranteed continued use of much of its discriminatory maps.

This disregard of both precedent and fact comes at serious costs to our democracy. It means that, after years of litigation and undeniable proof of intentional discrimination, minority voters in Texas—despite constituting a majority of the population within the State—will continue to be underrepresented in the political process. Those voters must return to the polls in 2018 and 2020 with the knowledge that their ability to exercise meaningfully their right to vote has been burdened by the manipulation of district lines specifically designed to target their communities and minimize their political will. The fundamental right to vote is too precious to be disregarded in this manner. I dissent.

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