A fractured Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states are free to redraw congressional districts at a time of their choosing, largely blessing Tom DeLay's bitterly contested handiwork in Texas and the gains it gave national Republicans.
With Justice Anthony M. Kennedy playing the role of majority maker, the court ruled the 2003 Texas plan violated the rights of Hispanics in the area around Laredo and ordered a lower court to review that part of the case.
But the justices imposed no timetable, and it was not clear whether Democrats would be able to win any changes in the Republican-drafted plan before the November elections.
Additionally, the justices rejected a claim that Texas Republicans had violated the rights of black voters by breaking up a congressional district in the area around Fort Worth.
And they ruled more broadly that the Constitution does not bar states from redrawing political lines when one party or the other senses an advantage.
``With respect to a mid-decade redistricting to change districts drawn earlier in conformance with a decennial census, the Constitution and Congress state no explicit prohibition,'' Kennedy wrote.