UPDATE 8:30 p.m.   After an afternoon hearing, the three-judge District Court in San Antonio ruled that the existing temporary maps for the congressional and legislative districts will be in place for the November election.  The court thus rebuffed the effort of advocates for minorities to draw a new map for Texas’s congressional seats.  Lawyers were told to file suggestions by December 1 — after the election, obviously — on how the case should proceed further.  The Friday ruling is discussed in this post on the Texas Redistricting website.

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The state of Texas took its first legal step Friday toward a Supreme Court appeal on the districting maps that it can use in the November elections for its delegation in Congress and for seats in both houses of its state legislatures.  That formal move came in a U.S. District Court in Washington, even as a separate District Court in San Antonio was weighing what maps could legally be used in November, at least for the state’s thirty-six seats in the House of Representatives.  Advocates for minority voters and candidates want the San Antonio court to draw up swiftly a new congressional district map.

On Tuesday, a three-judge District Court in Washington refused to give legal permission for Texas to put into effect any of the three electoral maps that were crafted by its state legislature last year.  It found that the congressional and state legislative districting plans would cut down on minorities’ voting rights for seats in the House and in both chambers of the Texas legislature.   Texas officials filed a notice of appeal in the Washington court Friday morning as a necessary step toward a Supreme Court appeal.  (This blog discussed that court’s ruling here.)

The two federal courts examining redistricting in Texas have different tasks.   The Washington court weighed whether to give legal permission to all three legislative maps, under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.   It refused to do so, because of the impact it said would befall Hispanic and black voters.  Without that court’s permission, Texas cannot implement those plans.   The San Antonio Court is weighing whether the Texas maps violate a separate part of the 1965 Act — Section 2, which forbids racial or ethnic discrimination in election laws, such as those on redistricting.

After the Washington court had found that the new maps would not satisfy Section 5, and the Texas attorney general promised to appeal, the San Antonio court said that it did not plan to decide its case “until all appeals to the United States Supreme Court have been exhausted.”  In a matter of hours, however, advocacy groups for minorities objected to using the congressional map for the districts up for election in November.   Since that map was found to violate Section 5, it cannot be implemented, those groups contended.

The three-judge court in San Antonio held a Friday afternoon hearing on what to do next.  It issued no immediate order after that hearing had ended.  Its view, at least before the hearing, was that the November election “will be conducted in accordance with” a set of interim maps that it had issued earlier, while awaiting word on what the Washington court would do about Texas’s duty to get legal clearance for the maps.   It did invite parties in the case that objected to that approach to make a case not to do so.

Posted in Cases in the Pipeline, Featured

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, Texas starts appeal on voter maps (UPDATED), SCOTUSblog (Aug. 31, 2012, 6:45 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/08/texas-starts-appeal-on-voter-maps/