The gamble by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Republican lawmakers to bypass the Obama Justice Department with redistricting maps backfired big time when a federal court on Tuesday rejected all the plans, even one that U.S. officials hadn't found objectionable.The three-judge panel, which held a trial in January, concluded that the Republican-dominated Legislature's redrawing of districts for Congress and the state House and Senate did not comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.What's more, the court said lawmakers acted with discriminatory intent in crafting boundaries for congressional districts and Fort Worth's Senate District 10, represented by Democrat Wendy Davis.Under the VRA, Texas must get any voting changes cleared by the Justice Department or a federal court. To receive that "preclearance," the state must show that it didn't diminish the electoral strength of racial, ethnic or language minorities or intentionally discriminate against them.Various groups challenged the three plans in court, and DOJ complained about two of them, but the state countered that any impact on minorities was fallout from partisan politics and therefore legal.Even though the Justice Department had not objected to the Texas Senate map, the court was persuaded by arguments from Davis and others that SD 10 was improperly reconfigured in a way that "cracked" African-American and Hispanic voters who had coalesced to elect her in 2008."One would expect a state that is as experienced with VRA litigation as Texas to have ensured that its redistricting process was beyond reproach," wrote Judge Thomas Griffith, who was appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C."That Texas did not, and now fails to respond sufficiently to the parties' evidence of discriminatory intent, compels us to conclude that the Senate Plan was enacted with discriminatory purpose as to SD 10."Griffith disagreed with U.S. District Judges Rosemary Collyer (another Bush appointee) and Beryl Howell (appointed by President Barack Obama) on the extent to which the congressional boundaries weaken Hispanic voters' ability to elect their chosen candidates, but all three judges found that plan unacceptable, too.The court cited several factors pointing to discriminatory purpose in developing the congressional map: The Legislature "removed the economic guts" from the three districts represented by African Americans, while "no such surgery was performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents"; Texas' House and Senate redistricting committees released a joint map for public view only 72 hours before holding a single public hearing; and minority members had little opportunity to influence decisions on the plan.The judges rejected the state's arguments that the results were mere coincidence -- or at worst, in the state's words, "blithe indifference to the wants of certain [minority] Congressmen."The court also pointed to testimony from state witnesses about manipulation in a West Texas district. High-voting Hispanic areas were switched out and low-turnout neighborhoods included, making the district more Republican-leaning without appearing to change the Hispanic population.The state House map, the court said, abridged minority voting rights by eliminating four districts in which minorities had the ability to elect their chosen candidates but not offsetting those losses elsewhere.The redistricting litigation has caused plenty of havoc, including a two-month delay in this year's party primaries and temporary maps adopted for the general elections. In fact, for November voting, SD 10 will look the same as in 2008.But the stakes are rising.Abbott tweeted that he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he issued a statement saying the appellate judges' decision "extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution."Abbott's end-game almost from the beginning has been a Supreme Court ruling that strikes down the VRA's preclearance requirement.Texas taxpayers almost certainly will be footing the bill for this constitutional fight into next year.