A lower court ruling that invalidated parts of the Texas House state map has been temporarily blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Responding swiftly to an appeal by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Justice Samuel Alito on Thursday signed an order to put on hold a three-judge panel’s unanimous ruling that nine Texas legislative districts needed to be redrawn because lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities in crafting them. Alito directed the minority rights groups suing the state to file a response to the state’s appeal by Sept. 7.

The lower court’s ruling could affect nine House districts across Dallas, Nueces, Bell and Tarrant counties. But adjusting those boundaries could have a ripple effect on neighboring districts.

The move comes days after Alito also temporarily put on hold a lower court ruling that invalidated two of Texas' 36 congressional districts and instructed the minority rights group suing the state to file a response to the state's appeal of that ruling. Responses from the state’s legal foes on that map are due Tuesday.

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The flurry of appeals come after the state piled up several voting rights losses in court this month — but state leaders have said they are committed to keeping political boundaries intact for the 2018 elections. It remains unclear what Alito’s order means for two court hearings set for Sept. 5 and 6 during which Texas and minority rights groups were set to return to court to begin redrawing both maps.

Both sides have their eyes on the calendar, wondering whether the increasingly complicated and long-winded legal battle will delay the March 2018 primary elections. Election administrators have said they need clarity by October to meet electoral guidelines.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texas lawmakers have now been popped by federal judges seven or eight times in recent years for intentionally discriminating against minority voters in with voter ID and redistricting legislation. Think they’ve got a problem? [Full story]

  • The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday temporarily put on hold a lower court ruling that invalidated two of Texas' 36 congressional districts. [Full story]

  • Texas violated the Voting Rights Act by restricting the interpretation assistance English-limited voters may receive, a federal appeals court ruled. [Full story]

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