Texas finally has interim redistricting maps after months of legal wrangling, and voters will be able to hit the polls May 29.
The San Antonio federal court issued an order March 1 setting the primary elections for May 29 and the runoff election date for July 31 with a reopening of candidate filing March 2–9. Candidates who previously filed during the December filing period were allowed to withdraw or switch races.
The order was issued two days after the San Antonio court released interim Congressional and state House maps, and approved the state Senate map agreed upon Feb. 15 by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.
Failure to reach agreements on all redistricting maps by mid-February pushed the April primary back, making May 29 the next possible date—though that had been contingent on the issuing of final maps by early March.
Texas Republican Party Spokesman Chris Elam said they were still inspecting the new maps, but at first blush, it appeared the court’s map resembled a compromise map proposed a couple weeks ago.
That compromise had been between Abbott and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force. However, several minority advocacy groups did not support the plan, and the San Antonio court rejected it.
As in Abbott’s plan, the court’s Congressional map would make half of Texas’ four new congressional seats Hispanic-controlled, including the newly created District 35—the former district of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, spanning from Austin to San Antonio.
Furthermore, the Congressional map also resembles the original maps drawn by the Republican-led Legislature that divided Travis County into five congressional districts, cutting at Doggett’s support base by again reconfiguring his current district, District 25, and creating District 35 out of his former one.
According to Elam, barring any appeals, the court’s interim maps will be used for the 2012 elections.
Doggett issued a statement after the release of the maps.
“As an effective advocate for schools, veterans, health care and retirement security, my service fits well with the neighborhoods that have now been joined from South San Antonio to North Austin,” Doggett stated. “I will continue the visits with working families that I already have under way.”
Travis County Democratic Party Chair Andy Brown said he did not like the new maps.
“This is a clear effort by the Republican Legislature to split up Travis County so we no longer have a unified voice in Congress,” he stated.
Federal lawsuits have halted the enactment of the state Legislature’s maps—which were not precleared by the federal government—originally delaying the primaries from March 6 to April 3.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected maps in January drawn by the San Antonio court, citing the insertion of the judges’ own preferences. The court instructed them to redraw the maps to more closely resemble the state’s plan.
“Compared to the [San Antonio] court’s previously issued interim maps, this would be an improvement,” Elam stated. “All in all, we feel that it is a great thing that maps have been issued.”
The March 1 court order also set April 9 as the date by which state House and Senate candidates must establish residency in the district they seek to represent.
While a primary date is now set, the delay has had negative effects as far as costs, scheduling and overall campaigning for both Democrats and Republicans.