Back to the Drawing Board

In a move called strange by everyone I know in politics, the U.S. Supreme Court made a late-Friday decision to intervene in the Texas redistricting battle.

The court blocked implementation of the interim maps issued by the federal court in San Antonio – the same maps I last wrote about, which would have helped Travis County and other Texas Democrats, and added as many as three Hispanic opportunity districts.

It’s a puzzle why the highest court would get involved in essentially a partisan process affecting only one state. In its latest move, the Supreme Court is showing uncharacteristically little deference to a lower federal district court, which typically decides such arguments.

There is currently much disagreement about what the outcome of this situation could be. There will be a lot of discussion between the two parties to settle issues including filing period extension, candidate legitimacy and primary election dates.

The problem with that latter concern, as far as minority advocates are concerned, is that it threatens a uniform date for the primary elections. One possibility is split primary dates — the primary for Texas House, Senate and Congressional seats could be separated from the primary for presidential and all other candidates. This could negatively impact minority voting power because traditionally, lower voter turnout has meant less participation by minority voters.

An additional concern that I personally have is that this development could be a very early test by conservatives on the Supreme Court of the Voting Rights Act itself. Would they take their agenda so far? Yes, I believe they might. Scalia? Thomas? Definitely this is a bigger issue to watch as we settle this redistricting nonsense. But people, listen: This is yet another reason to re-elect President Obama. If the highest court in the land is willing to test the legitimacy of venerated laws that protect voters, then we need an executive branch that gives them some pushback by appointing more reasonable justices in their place.

I continue to seek answers about how this latest development will ultimately affect Travis County and the rest of Texas. I will update you again as soon as I can gain more definitive information.

This is one the better blogs on the situation:
http://electionlawblog.org/?p=26336

Also the New York Times has been covering the story:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/10/us/politics/supreme-court-to-hear-texas-election-district-case.html?_r=1&ref=politics