Bloomberg News

Texas Voter Map Ruling Won’t Come This Month, Court Says

February 15, 2012

(Updates with Texas attorney general in fourth paragraph.)

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The legality of Texas’s electoral maps probably won’t be ruled on this month, said federal judges in Washington considering whether the proposed districts put Hispanic voters at a disadvantage.

The three-judge panel, in a ruling today, told both sides in the case that “this court does not anticipate issuing any order within the next 30 days.” The one-sentence order was issued a day after the end of a two-week bench trial over the legality of the state assembly and congressional districts.

Federal judges hearing a related case in San Antonio last week urged the Washington panel to expedite a ruling to guide their redistricting efforts. The state’s primary is scheduled for April 3.

“This undoubtedly reduces the chances of an April 3rd primary and absent a resolution by the litigants, Texas might have a primary in the summer,” Trey Martinez Fischer, a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives and chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which is fighting the state’s maps, said in an e-mailed statement.

“The Texas attorney general’s office is working to resolve the redistricting matters as quickly as possible in a way that properly and fairly applies the law,” Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said in an e-mail. She said Abbott is personally reaching out to representatives of both African American and Latino interest groups to see if they can agree on interim maps.

Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, declined to comment on today’s order.

Republican Legislature

The dispute stems from maps drawn last year by the Republican-controlled Texas legislature after the decennial census. Governor Rick Perry signed the maps into law.

The U.S. objects to two proposed congressional districts and five state assembly districts.

Texas sued the administration of President Barack Obama 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.

U.S. District Judges Beryl Howell, Rosemary Collyer, and Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith ruled in November that Texas used an “improper standard or methodology” when determining whether minorities had the ability to elect their preferred candidates.

Abbott’s office was asked by the judges in Texas last week to keep trying to broker a compromise with Latino activists that would let the court create interim election maps and allow Texas to conduct primary elections without delay.

The case is Texas v. U.S., 1:11-cv-01303, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

--With assistance from Laurel Calkins in Houston. Editors: Fred Strasser, Michael Hytha

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

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


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