updated 1/16/2004 5:09:33 PM ET 2004-01-16T22:09:33

Congressional elections in Texas will proceed under a new Republican-drawn redistricting plan after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an emergency appeal from state Democrats.

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Friday was the deadline for candidates to file for the March 9 primary under the new maps, which were written last year during bitter partisan bickering and were designed to give Republicans as many as six additional seats in Congress.

The court rejected only the emergency appeal. It will announce later this year whether it will consider an appeal from congressional Democrats and others on the merits of their claim that the map dilutes minority voting strength.

The court rejected the emergency appeal without comment.

Republican-driven process
The Republican-controlled Legislature approved the districts in a special session after months of emotional politics highlighted by two out-of-state walkouts by Democrats.

Republicans contend that they could capture as many as 22 of Texas’ 32 seats in Congress, up from the current 16. The new map was upheld last week by a Texas-based federal panel.

The three-judge panel said critics failed to prove that the plan was unconstitutional or illegal, but they noted that they were not ruling on the “wisdom” of the plan.

“We know it is rough and tumble politics, and we are ever mindful that the judiciary must call the fouls without participating in the game,” the judges said.

Attorneys for the state have argued that lawmakers passed the new map in October with political interests in mind, not racial gerrymandering. But Democrats claim that minority voting rights were trampled in the new plan.

“The consequences of an erroneous denial of a stay here are severe: Applicants and millions of other Texans would suffer a needless deprivation of their federal constitutional and statutory rights,” attorneys representing critics of the plan told the Supreme Court.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose office represents the state in the case, repeatedly has said he believes the Republican map will withstand court challenges.

The case is Jackson v. Perry, 03A581.

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