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High court orders new maps in Texas

NBC's Pete Williams reports on The Supreme Court's ruling to throws out Texas election maps drawn by a federal court in Texas.

Updated 1:45 pm ET

The Supreme Court Friday morning rejected interim maps drawn by a federal court in Texas that created new lines for congressional and state legislative districts in the state.

Texas gained four seats in the House of Representatives, due to population growth as measured by the 2010 Census.

The justices ordered the three-judge court in San Antonio to devise new plans, paying more heed to the plans drawn by the Texas legislature.

Pete Williams of NBC News said Friday’s decision will make it hard for Texas to have its primary election in April.  It has already been delayed a month, from March. 

On his Election Law Blog, University of California, Irvine, law professor Rick Hasen wrote that the high court's ruling "is a big win for Texas, and will require the drawing of districts much more likely to favor Texas’s interim plan...." But Hasen added,  "At most these lines will last for one election" since Texas is awaiting the approval of its redistricting maps from the Justice Department and the outcome of further litigation in the case.

Karen Bleier / AFP - Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

In an unsigned opinion, the justices said that the federal court in Texas erred to the extent that it “exceeded its mission” to draw interim maps for the 2012 elections that do not violate the Constitution or the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Texas court had wrongly “substituted its own concept of ‘the collective public good’ for the Texas Legislature’s determination ...” the justices said.

The high court also said that the Texas court “appears to have unnecessarily ignored the State’s plans in drawing certain individual districts.”

Civil rights groups had challenged the maps drawn by the Texas legislature, arguing that they discriminate against Latinos and African-Americans and dilute the voting strength of those groups.

Under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Texas is one of nine states that must get permission, or “preclearance,” from the Justice Department for any change in voting procedures they seek to make. The Texas redistricting plans are still in the process of getting that approval from the Justice Department.

The high court said Friday that even though the Texas legislature’s redistricting plans have not yet gotten Justice Department approval, “that does not mean that the plan is of no account or that the policy judgments it reflects can be disregarded by a district court drawing an interim plan. On the contrary, the state plan serves as a starting point for the district court.”

In a statement Friday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot said that the high court's ruling made clear "that the district court must give deference to elected leaders of this state, and it's clear by the Supreme Court ruling that the district court abandoned these guiding principles. The Supreme Court's swift decision will allow Texas to move forward with elections as soon as possible, under maps that are lawful."

But Nina Perales, the vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said, "We believe the (Texas legislature's redistricting ) plans discriminate against Latino voters and are pleased that the Supreme Court refused to allow Texas to proceed with its discriminatory redistricting plans. We look forward to further proceedings in the federal court in Texas to again secure fair interim maps for all Texans."