photo from Texas Tribune
A federal three-judge panel in San Antonio on Tuesday issued the last remaining sets of Texas political maps that had been at the center of a redistricting dispute, appearing to end uncertainty over the state’s long-delayed primary elections.
The judges released new interim maps for Congressional and State House districts. It had issued a State Senate district map this month.
The legal wrangling over the three sets of maps had thrown much of the state’s political machinery into limbo, as the judges twice pushed back the date of the primary and lawmakers and candidates struggled to campaign without viable electoral maps.
Minority groups and Democratic lawmakers sued the state in federal court over the maps drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature, arguing that they discriminated against blacks and Hispanics. Lawyers for Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general, who is representing the state, have argued that the maps were drawn to help Republicans maintain power, not to discriminate.
At a hearing earlier this month, one of the judges said the primary, which had been set for March 6 and then April 3, would most likely be on May 29. Jacquelyn F. Callanen, the elections administrator for Bexar County, told the judges that elections officials statewide would need the maps by March 3. With all of the maps having been issued before March 3, May 29 appears to be the primary date, though the judges have yet to make the date official.
The court’s new Congressional map is based in large part on a compromise map that the state and lawyers for some of the minority groups had recently agreed to. The court’s map gives blacks and Hispanics three of the state’s four new Congressional seats, but it also appears to weaken the minority voting strength in three other seats that blacks and Hispanics had been competitive in, experts said.
“It clearly is better than the state’s map, but arguably it doesn’t go as far for minorities,” said Michael Li, an election law attorney in Dallas who has followed the case’s developments on his Web site, Txredistricting.org.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has served as the 50th Attorney General of Texas since December 2, 2002. Prior to his election as Attorney General, he was a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court and a State District Judge in Harris County.
The attorney general said in a statement that the new maps reflect the intent of the Legislature, and he applauded the court for leaving numerous districts as they were drawn by the state and rejecting “the demands by some plaintiffs to draw drastic and overreaching interim maps.”
The federal judges had previously drawn a set of maps that differed from the Legislature’s maps and benefited minorities, but the attorney general asked the Supreme Court to intervene. The Supreme Court ruled in January that the San Antonio judges had not paid enough deference to the Legislature’s maps and sent the case back to the lower court.
Read More: Story from The New York Times
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