News Column

Panel Authorizes Texas Redistricting Maps

March 2, 2012

Greg Russell

Texas flag

The Texas primary election date is aimed for May 29, following months of delay in relation to contested redistricting maps.

A three-judge federal panel in San Antonio has reportedly authorized three new maps for congressional and state House districts. Nine Hispanic groups that had opposed an earlier set of Republican-drawn congressional maps -- claiming they didn't reflect the massive growth of minorities in Texas during the past decade -- can still appeal the new decision.

The map controversy shifted the primary election date from March 6 to April 3, before this latest date of May 29 was decided. The last day for Texans to vote is June 26, in accordance with the MOVE Act, which allows time for ballots to be sent to soldiers overseas in the weeks leading up to the November election.

And Texas Republican officials applaud the current federally-drawn maps, mainly because the results suggest their show can go on.

"While we believe the original maps drawn by the Texas Legislature were fair and legal, I am pleased we finally have maps that enable us to proceed with our elections," Gov. Rick Perry said this week. "Had the federal court done it correctly to begin with, the time, costs and inconvenience to our state could have been avoided, and we would be having our elections on schedule."

Democratic strategist Matt Angle, who reportedly advised some of the minorities who sued Texas over prior maps, also gave mixed praise.

"This map is considerably better than the state-enacted map," he said. "Clearly minority voters won something important today. It's just not as good of a map as many of us had hoped."

Cooke County Republican Party Chairman Bob Eggleston said the dispute has been much ado about very little, producing atypical legal costs for the state and resulting in new maps that aren't appreciably different.

"All lawsuits are expensive, probably more so than they ought to be," Eggleston said. "I think the worst thing that's happened to us is the fact that the Texas Legislature had done a credible job in redistricting. The U.S. government took umbrage with that, so they forced it in an entirely different direction that's too far. And we wind up, today, with three maps that have been produced and are very close to the Legislature's original thing."

The new maps include these changes:

--The court substantially redrew the Texas Legislature's congressional map to create a majority Hispanic Congressional District 33, which extends through the center of the Metroplex.

--The court made changes to Republican Rep. Quico Canseco's Congressional District 23, which extends from El Paso to the western suburbs of San Antonio. The changes reflected those requested by Hispanic groups, but it was unclear if they were enough to hurt Canseco's election chances.

--In the Austin area, the court kept the Legislature's map that divided the heavily Democratic Travis County into five districts from its existing three, indicating that an Austin Democrat could not win re-election. The only potentially Democratic district, Congressional District 35, has the majority of residents living in the San Antonio area.

--The court-drawn map made no change to congressional districts in the Corpus Christi area, where Hispanic groups complained their votes were being compromised.

The new maps can be viewed at http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/.

The San Antonio Express-News and the Associated Press contributed to this story.



Source: (c) 2012 the Gainesville Daily Register (Gainesville, Texas)


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