San Antonio – A federal court in San Antonio issued new election maps, likely clearing the way for the primary.
The ruling by a three-judge panel could clear the way for elections, if none of the nine groups contesting the state's political districts files an appeal. All sides were studying the complex maps to determine their next move.
Minority groups have accused the Republican-controlled Legislature of drawing maps that discriminated against them. The state's leaders say the maps merely give Republicans an advantage in the next election, something that is perfectly legal in drawing political districts.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the new maps “appear to be nearly identical to the compromise maps negotiated between Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and the Latino Redistricting Task Force, which were rejected by other minority and Democratic groups.”
“Like that compromise, the court's congressional map would create two new minority congressional seats and preserves the Republican-dominated Legislature's decision to split Austin into five districts,” The Houston Chronicle story said, “likely forcing U.S. Rep Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, to run in a new, heavily Hispanic district that stretches from San Antonio to Austin.”
With time running out for Texas to hold primaries, and the maps are intended to get Texas through the 2012 election cycle. The fight over redistricting has already seen the Texas primaries delayed from March 6 to April 3 and now May 29. The last day Texans could vote is June 26.
The latest maps come after months or legal wrangling in three federal courtrooms, including the U.S. Supreme Court. The court threw out the last set of maps the San Antonio judges drew saying they did not adhere closely enough to the maps originally drawn by the Legislature.
The ruling does not resolve the two court cases still pending, but is only an interim measure. The San Antonio court must still make a decision on whether the original maps drawn by Republicans last year discriminates against minorities and needs to be changed.
That decision is dependent on separate lawsuit in the Washington, D.C., federal court on whether the original maps are legal under the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Washington court said it would probably issue a ruling sometime in March.
The Houston Chronicle said “If the D.C. court were to rule that splitting Doggett's district disenfranchises minorities, it could force the creation of a new set of maps for the 2014 election.”
“While the interim plan for the Texas House is also largely identical to the compromise, it deviates from it on at least three House districts,” the paper said. “One of those districts, currently represented by state Rep. John Garza, R-San Antonio, gains more Latino and Democratic voters than it had under the compromise plan. Political observers had predicted he would face a tough re-election even with a friendlier map.”
The May 29 primary would still be uncertain if any of the groups that filed lawsuits decide to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to block the new maps.
Below are links to the court-issued maps:
This story contains material from The Associated Press.