Nov. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Primary elections for the Texas Legislature won’t be delayed as requested by Texas Governor Rick Perry until the court fight over a redistricting plan is resolved.
The 2-1 decision by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio doesn’t apply to primary elections for the U.S. House of Representatives, which are being considered in the same case and are also scheduled for March 6. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott argued in a court filing that delaying the imposition of the court-drawn maps would give time for the U.S. Supreme Court to “correct this court’s errors.”
Perry opposed the election districts created by the three- judge panel after Hispanic voter rights groups claimed maps drawn by state legislators based on the 2010 census were discriminatory, Texas said in a court filing. The candidate filing period begins Nov. 28.
“The individuals who would suffer irreparable injury if the stay were granted are the citizens of Texas, by being deprived of the opportunity to vote in the upcoming elections under the schedule currently in place,” U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia wrote in yesterday’s order.
U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, the dissenting member of the panel, called for an immediate delay in state legislative primaries so the high court can review the panel’s work. Smith also said the court should delay implementing its new congressional maps and candidate registration, even though Perry hasn’t formally asked for a stay in those races.
“Texas has some of the earliest primaries -- perhaps the very earliest -- in the United States,” Smith wrote in his dissent. “A delay of even a few weeks would still provide ample time for orderly primaries and runoffs well in advance of the November elections.”
Texas Republicans say the court’s interim maps thwart the elected legislative majority’s right to draw boundaries it prefers. They say the judges’ maps favor the state’s Democratic minority too much and no court has determined the lawmakers’ maps are racially biased.
Separate three-judge panels have held hearings in Washington and San Antonio on related challenges to Texas’s electoral maps. Latino activists and congressmen whose jobs were threatened by the Legislature’s maps sued Perry in San Antonio federal court in August, seeking to block the maps.
Abbott sued the U.S. Justice Department federal court in Washington seeking pre-clearance of the election maps, a step required of all states with a history of voting rights violations. The Washington court on Nov. 8 refused to allow the Perry-approved maps to be used in next year’s elections, saying the court needed time to explore allegations that they were designed to keep Latinos out of office.
To avoid a delay in the state’s election cycle, the San Antonio judges created interim maps they said more fairly reflected the distribution of the state’s increased population. They proposed interim congressional boundaries Nov. 23, a week after they submitted the interim state legislative districts.
Texas gained four congressional seats after adding almost 4.3 million new residents since 2000, with almost 65 percent of the growth coming from Hispanics, according to the 2010 U.S. census.
Perry, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, approved election maps drawn by the Republican- controlled Texas Legislature in June. Critics said the maps created no new districts that improved election opportunities for Latinos, who historically have voted more often for Democrats than Republicans.
Republicans hold 23 of Texas’s 32 congressional seats.
Lawyers for the state told the San Antonio judges during a two-week trial in September that the maps don’t discriminate against Hispanics because white voters support minority candidates. The minorities elected in Texas “just happen to be Republicans,” Deputy Attorney General David Schenck said.
The Texas case is Perez v. Perry, 5:11-cv-00360, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio). The Washington case is Texas v. U.S., 1:11-cv-1303, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
--With assistance from Tom Schoenberg and Michael A. Riley in Washington. Editors: Andrew Dunn, Mary Romano
To contact the reporter on this story: Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at email@example.com.