Federal court rejects attorney general's proposed maps

The U.S. District Court in San Antonio rejected interim redistricting maps proposed by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on Feb. 6 as the deadline to reach a compromise in time to preserve the April 3 deadline passed.

The San Antonio federal court had urged a compromise on a plan with the state by Feb. 6 to uphold the primary date following the Supreme Court's rejection of their proposed maps.

The Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force reached an agreement. However, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Black Legislative Caucus and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People did not support the plan.

Abbott was confident the maps would satisfy all parties.

"Even though this agreement did not receive the sign-off by some other Latino-based groups, we know from what they told us [that] this largely satisfies what they were really seeking," Abbott said.

MALC Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer issued his group's response.

"Unfortunately, negotiations stalled when it became apparent some parties in these discussions had a narrow and at times unrealistic view of the evidence presented at trial," Martinez Fischer stated.

While the April 3 primary deadline passed, Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri said that if a compromise is reached by Feb. 20, the primaries could be held in April.

Abbott's plan would have made half of Texas' four new congressional seats Hispanic-controlled, including Congressional District 35, the former district of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, which runs from Austin to San Antonio, as well as District 33, a Fort Worth–area district.

Results of the 2010 census indicating the state's population had earned Texas four more congressional seats sparked chaos in the already tricky redistricting process.

Lawsuits have since halted the new maps drawn by the Republican-dominated state Legislature, originally delaying the primaries from March 6 to April 3.

Texas is among the states that must get preclearance on redistricting maps by the U.S. Department of Justice under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, according to the Texas Legislative Council. However, the state did not submit the maps to the DOJ for preclearance and instead petitioned a U.S. District Court for a declaratory judgment validating the redistricting plans.

The Supreme Court denied the petition and held a trial Jan. 17–31. The court issued a statement saying a decision was not likely in February.

Meanwhile, separate lawsuits were filed by opponents who claim the maps dilute minority voting power.

Some of the lawsuits were consolidated and heard in September by the court in San Antonio, which redrew the state's maps and submitted them to the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Jan. 20, the Supreme Court rejected the San Antonio court's maps citing the insertion of the judges' own preferences. The court instructed them to redraw the maps to more closely resemble the state's plan but to not incorporate legal defects.

As of press time Feb. 10, the San Antonio court had a hearing scheduled for Feb. 14 to go over the interim maps and election schedule.



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