Bloomberg News

U.S. Court Blocks Texas Electoral Maps Approved by Rick Perry

September 30, 2011

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- A federal court put on hold electoral maps approved by Texas Governor Rick Perry for congressional and state assembly districts, saying they weren’t approved by the U.S. under the Voting Rights Act.

The order signed yesterday by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio blocks the redistricting plans for the Texas House of Representatives and the U.S. House of Representatives. Garcia is part of a three-judge panel that has weighed evidence on the redistricting plan in a case filed by groups claiming the new maps put Latino candidates at a disadvantage.

A different three-judge panel in Washington is also reviewing the Texas redistricting plan. Last week, the Justice Department in that case said the Texas plan “will diminish the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates.”

“Today’s injunction is important in that it preserves our opportunity to implement a court-ordered map should the pre- clearance process in Washington be delayed to the point where it takes us past the election filing deadlines,” Joaquin G. Avila, a Seattle University law professor representing the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the Texas legislature, said yesterday in a phone interview.

The caucus also filed papers yesterday asking the San Antonio judicial panel to start creating new Congressional maps for Texas.

Restatement Only

Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said the state didn’t oppose the request to halt implementation. She said yesterday’s ruling “merely restates what the law already provides -- that Texas cannot implement its new district maps until they have been pre-cleared.”

Texas sued the Obama administration in July seeking so- called pre-clearance for the state’s new maps under the Voting Rights Act, a step required of all states with a history of voting-rights violations. Perry, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, signed the bill with the election map created in June by Texas lawmakers.

The majority-Republican Legislature redrew electoral maps after the state grew enough to gain four seats in Congress, adding almost 4.3 million residents since 2000, according to the 2010 census.

The Texas case is Perez v. Perry, 5:11-cv-0360, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio). The Washington case is Texas v. the U.S., 1:11-cv-01303, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

--Editors: {Michael Hytha}, {Peter Blumberg}

To contact the reporters on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net; Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at laurel@calkins.us.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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