Interim redistricting maps released - Primary likely on May 29th

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

On Tuesday the San Antonio court released it’s latest version of interim maps for Texas. Here’s the link to the maps via TxRedistricing.

Order on congressional map (C235)
Order on state house map (H309)
Order on state senate map (S172)

It looks like the San Antonio court to the path of least resistance. It’s hard to argue with Burka that the Texas GOP got what they wanted, after getting the SCOTUS ruling, R’s steamroll D’s in House redistricting.

The bottom line is that the interim House map largely resembles the version passed by the Legislature. This was a foregone conclusion when the Supreme Court told the San Antonio Court it had overreached. The Democrats performed poorly in the negotiations. It was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. There were multiple groups of plaintiffs and each of them had their own sets of concerns. Abbott won the day when he cut a deal with national LULAC and MALDEF early in the negotiations. He split the Democrats and they never recovered. An attorney for the Democrats told me that they might end up with 7 to 8 seats over the original House plan. If so, the split in the House next year would look something like 93/94 R to 56/57 D, and many of the Republican seats are solid.

All the fighting and delays helped the GOP get much better maps then the original “interim” maps. Anyone still holding out hope for things to change again, should hope for a quick ruling from the DC court on preclearance, Q&A on the new interim maps.

Do the new interim maps need to be precleared under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

Yes. Since the maps reflect state policy choices, they will need to be submitted for review either to the Justice Department or to the three-judge panel in Washington that tried the preclearance case.

Tim Mellett of the Justice Department said at hearings two weeks ago that DOJ is prepared to examine the maps under its expedited review process and that the process could be concluded in time for a May 29 primary.

The assumption of most observers is that the state will submit the maps to DOJ rather than the three-judge panel in Washington. However, the decision ultimately will be Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s call.

Regardless, expect candidate filing and election preparations to go forward, pending preclearance.

Of course, we could be back in court if, for some reason, DOJ - or the DC court - denies preclearance.

Could a party appeal the interim maps?

Yes, dissatisfied parties (ranging from minority groups to Congressman Joe Barton) could ask the Supreme Court to review the maps and the court’s explanation for doing what it did.

However, unless the Supreme Court grants a stay and/or sets the appeal on an expedited schedule, election would go forward using the interim maps - assuming, of course, that the maps are precleared.

A stay request to the Supreme Court likely would be referred to the court as a whole to consider. If that happens, it would take five justices to grant a stay.

Could the map process be reopened after the D.C. court issues its ruling in the preclearance trial?

Yes, particularly if the D.C. court’s opinion differs materially from where the San Antonio court ended up in its analysis of section 5 issues (e.g., if the D.C. court decides that CD-25 is a protected district).

But the San Antonio court would have to decide whether any issues raised by the D.C. court’s opinion are significant enough to warrant reopening the process or whether to simply order the election to proceed using the interim maps for the 2012 cycle.

What the court does is likely to be driven not only by what the D.C. court’s opinion says but by when the decision comes out.

The D.C. court said back in early February that it did not expect to rule for “at least 30 days,” but it did not give a definitive date. If the court’s ruling comes out shortly (think: Friday or early next week), it would be possible to adjust maps and have a June 26 primary if not a May primary.

But if revised maps can’t be done by March 31, then a June 26 primary would be hard, if not impossible, to accomplish.

And a primary any later would run into conflicts with the parties’ national convention schedule and perhaps more critically would push runoffs into late September/early October.

In that case, the San Antonio court very well could chose to redraw the maps but make them effective in 2014 instead of 2012.

And this is the calendar for the primary which looks like it will be on May 29th.

  • The filing period would reopen Friday, March 2, and close a week later on Friday, March 9 at 6 p.m.
  • Ballot order draws would need to occur in each county on or before March 12, 2012.
  • Precinct boundaries would need to be redrawn by or before March 20, 2012.
  • Military and overseas mail ballots would need to be mailed by April 14, 2012.
  • New voter registration certificates would need to be issued by April 25, 2012.
  • The primary runoff would be July 31, 2012.

As for Williamson County little has changed, from the maps passed last year by the legislature. The only change seems to be the number to the new state House district - it was 149 and it is now 136.

For more round up and commentary on the new redistricting maps:
Off the Kuff - We have maps.
Texas Redistricting - Press round up: The interim maps.

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