I was unable to return to the federal courthouse in San Antonio today for the redistricting hearings but I’ve been getting updates all day from our legal team working on Rodriguez v. Perry in conjunction with other plaintiffs.
Here is what I know: First, we aren’t likely to have primaries in April. The time has run out on that hope. At the end of today’s hearing, Judge Jerry Smith said the primaries are not likely to happen before May 29.
Second, a good portion of today’s hearings focused on our slice of the issue: CD 25 and the question of whether it will be reshaped into a Travis-to-Bexar gerrymandered district or left compact in Travis County. There was much discussion about coalition districts and whether Travis County has one. (YES, WE DO.)
Finally, MALDEF seems set on compromising with the Republicans. I was upset yesterday by its attorney’s disrespectful comments about Travis County Hispanic voters (she called us “ineffective”), but that’s not half as bad as MALDEF’s repeated attempts to settle with the State (Republicans) on a solution that has ZERO protections for Travis County Latinos. And I thought MALDEF’s mission was to protect ALL Latino voting interests across the state.
Renea Hicks, who is representing our Travis County case, reminded the San Antonio court today that D.C. court had already found that pulling Travis County Hispanics into a sliver of a district that would include Hays, Comal and Bexar counties would harm our voting rights. Hicks said that District 25 cannot be changed that much because of the harm it would bring to minority voters here. Remember, the US Department of Justice says that coalition districts like the one we have in Austin is protected.
Our side continues to advocate for a solution that keeps Austin Hispanics together in one Congressional District so that we may continue to elect the candidates of our choice. Our best bet is to not settle but wait for the federal court to issue its ruling based on whether the maps satisfy the Voting Rights Act.
So what happens while we wait?
First, the court asked for the following by 5:00 pm tomorrow (Thursday):
1. MALDEF needs to provide the court with its legal arguments for why its version of CD25 and CD33 in Dallas (a potential minority voter coalition like ours) is supported by the Voting Rights Act.
2. Our side must provide its legal argument over why Travis County should not be split five ways and why CD25 should be compactly located in Travis County.
Second, both parties must draft a schedule for early voting, mail ballots and runoffs and propose those schedules to the court in San Antonio. Filing remains suspended for candidates, so both parties also must propose when to reopen filing for candidates. When the dust settles on redistricting, we could see a very different landscape of candidates than how it looked when filing started in November.
Last, I’m drafting a letter from Travis County Latino voters to MALDEF in order to educate its legal team about Travis County’s minority voting coalition and its highly effective outcomes. If you would like to add your name to the letter, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do this before mid-day Thursday as I plan to send the letter by then.