Update on Redistricting 10/03/11

Update:

10/04/2011 3:24 p.m.

The San Antonio Federal Court has scheduled October 31, 2011 as the date to review interim maps submitted by litigating parties.

On Friday, the federal court in San Antonio that is handling Texas’ combined redistricting lawsuits decided it needed to draw “interim maps” in the event the cases cannot be settled before the November 2012 election. Interim maps would be used for that election instead of either the old or new maps. The court called on the plaintiffs to provide input on the interim maps by October 24, 2011.

So now back to the drawing board.

The blame for this delay and the extra effort now required to draw yet another set of maps can be laid squarely at the feet of Texas Republicans.

Texas is one of a handful of southern states, which, because of a history of voter discrimination, must get federal approval of its district maps before they can be used in an election. This approval process is called pre-clearance. Last month, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, acting in the interests of Texas Republicans, asked for pre-clearance from a GOP-appointed panel of three federal judges in Washington rather than asking for it directly from the Department of Justice, which is under the Obama Administration.

Abbott’s move was a legal but highly partisan side-step in the redistricting process, and it will have the intentional effect of delaying any decision on the multiple lawsuits filed over the maps drawn by the Texas Legislature this past summer. By the time this whole thing is finished, we’ll have at least three rounds of maps, and I wonder what THAT will cost. Republicans sure can spend that taxpayer money!

Meanwhile, all litigating parties have until October 24th to try to agree on interim maps. The San Antonio federal court (where the lawsuits were filed) has set a date to review interim maps – October 31, 2011. The San Antonio court has the challenge of discovering whether the district maps that the Legislature drew have violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

There was much testimony during hearings in mid-September in San Antonio to show that yes, minority and other voters would be disenfranchised if the Legislature’s maps were to be used in the next election. We now are preparing post-trial briefs for the court to review.

Meanwhile, score one for us: Two of the State of Texas’ (Abbott’s) own expert witnesses – Dr. John Alford and Todd Giberson – testified in San Antonio that proposed Congressional District 35 (the new one, in which Rep. Doggett must run) is not a compact district. Which is exactly one of the points our side is making. The shape of that district belongs in the dictionary, next to the definition for gerrymandering.

Thanks for sharing my interest in the redistricting battle! Please check back soon for my next update.

Click here for a link to the full court order.