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US Supreme Court Ruling Could Have Major Impact on Congress


The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Wednesday that could have a major impact on the makeup of Congress in the future.

By a vote of seven to two, the high court upheld a Republican plan in Texas to redraw congressional districts that led to a Republican gain of six congressional seats in Texas in 2004.

But more importantly, the court ruled that states may draw new congressional district maps as often as they like through their state legislatures.

Historically, the U.S. Constitution requires that states adjust their congressional districts every 10 years to account for population shifts based on the government census.

There are 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the Senate. Each state is represented by two senators, while the number of House members is determined by the state's population.

The Supreme Court decision essentially upholds the right of Texas to adjust its congressional boundaries twice since the 2000 government census.

It also means the high court is opening the way for both political parties to push for a redrawing of congressional districts any time there is a shift in control of the state legislature in a given state.

"The big news here is that the court has said that states can redraw districts more than once a decade, depending upon the local political majority at the time," said Andrew Cohen, a legal analyst for CBS News. "And that is a new reality that ultimately will cut against either party at one point or another."

Former Congressman and House Majority leader Tom DeLay was a major booster of the Republican redistricting plan in Texas.

DeLay faces a charge of money laundering in Texas in connection with his fundraising activities for the redistricting effort. He was forced to step down from his leadership post in Congress and recently resigned his seat.

As part of its ruling, the Supreme Court also said that some of the Texas congressional boundaries failed to protect the rights of Hispanic voters. The Texas legislature will now have to rewrite some of those districts.

Attorney Rolando Rios represented Hispanic groups seeking changes in the congressional boundaries.

"You can't do that without violating the rights of minorities, so that district will have to be put back together again," he said.

Following in the footsteps of Texas, Colorado and Georgia have also undertaken a second round of congressional redistricting since the 2000 government census.

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