01.24.12

Update on redistricting and polling place photo ID restrictions

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Election 2012, Redistricting at 11:12 am by wcnews

The crux of the issue with redistricting in Texas boils down to the highlighted sentence below from Michael Li, Election schedule, interim map update.

In an order issued this afternoon, the San Antonio court cancelled the scheduled February 1 status conference and instead asked the parties to appear for a status conference this Friday, January 27, at 1 p.m.

However, the court told the parties that if they wish to maintain a unified April 3 primary date that they would need to agree among themselves on maps by February 6.

If the parties are unable to agree upon maps, they are to submit a list of unobjected to districts by February 6 for the court’s consideration.

The majority (GOP) is going to have to work with, i.e. compromise with, the minority (Democrats) in order to get a set up maps passed by the deadline for an April Primary to be possible. Isn’t it interesting that it comes down to that? Because the GOP was adamantly opposed to that during the legislative session is the reason we are in this predicament in the first place. It’s because of the shenanigans and unwillingness of the GOP leaders in the legislature to work with Democrats, in a few areas, that their redistricting plans failed to hold up to legal scrutiny.

And same goes for their polling place photo ID restrictions bill, aka Voter ID. The Texas GOP didn’t have to pass the most restrictive law photo ID restriction law ever, but they did.

The law, known as Senate Bill 14, would establish a very limited list of accepted forms of photo identification, and would require all voters to show an acceptable ID before they will be permitted to vote. Other previously acceptable documents, like birth certificates and utility bills, will no longer be accepted as sufficient proof of identification.

Notably, university student ID cards and state and federal government employee ID cards would also be rejected. This extremely narrow list of acceptable identification documents makes Texas’ law one of the most restrictive pieces of voter ID legislation in the entire country.

There were areas for compromise with Democrats on an ID bill but since the GOP had large enough majorities in the legislature they saw no need. And, again, their extremism and overreach brought about enactment of legislation that can’t hold up to legal scrutiny. There is a school of thought out there that believes the whole point of the GOP passing such extreme measures, in redistricting and photo restriction, is to bring about a constitutional challenge of the Voting Rights Act. That’s hard to argue with.

Kuff has two good posts on both of these issues:
Redistricting, Trying to save the April 3 primary date.

The race is on to get new maps in hand in time to keep the April 3 primary date, since all the options for after that date are distinctly unpalatable in one way or another. On Friday, the State of Texas asked the San Antonio court to get its work done by January 30. The courtasked for responses to that request; the plaintiffs said it wasn’t realistic while the state said they’d work late and by phone to make it happen. They also suggested moving the second filing deadline to February 6 and shortening the period for mailing military ballots to 25 days. The court responded with some requests of its own.

And polling place photo ID restrictins, Texas files suit to preclear voter ID.

As we know, the Justice Department has been asking the state for data about how this law will affect minority voters, and it’s only in the last couple of weeks that the state has sort of fulfilled those requests. The DOJ refused to preclear a new voter ID law in South Carolina on the grounds that it was discriminatory, with AG Abbott expressing at that time the opinion that Texas’ law was headed for a similar fate. We’ll see what the DC court makes of this. For what it’s worth, they so far have not shown any inclination in the redistricting preclearance lawsuit to be more lenient on the state than Justice would have been. Postcardshas more, Texas Redistricting has a response to Abbott from MALC Chair Trey Martinez-Fischer, and a statement from Sen. Rodney Ellis is here.

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