Texas Supreme Court to hear state’s attempt to issue political map challenge, but not before primary


AUSTIN — The state’s attempt to launch a legal challenge arguing that last year’s GOP-led redistricting effort violated the Texas Constitution is heading to the state Supreme Court, which has accepted the business Friday.

The all-Republican high court set oral arguments for March 23, well after the March 1 primary election.

Last fall, GOP mapmakers in the Legislative Assembly approved new policy lines that could cement Republicans’ grip on power for the next decade and blunt the voting strength of nonwhite voters who have fueled the surge. Texas demographic.

As federal lawsuits over the new cards mount, some Democrats are focused on fighting in state court. In two combined cases, a group of mostly Democratic and Hispanic lawmakers from both chambers challenged the constitutionality of when and how Republicans drew the lines.

After two days of oral argument in December, a three-judge district court ruled against temporarily blocking the new legislative maps, but set a trial for January. Texas then appealed the court’s denial of its motions to dismiss the case, putting the trial on hold.

The lawmakers’ lawyers said they were not seeking to overturn the cards for the 2022 election cycle, but argued for an expedited resolution of the appeal “to allow sufficient time for the parties to argue the merits before the session Legislative of 2023”.

Two Democratic state senators, who have sued to stop the Legislature from redistributing in a special session this year, focus on the timing of the reshuffle. Rules for keeping counties intact when drawing Texas House districts are also in question.

Similar to a lawsuit they filed in federal court before the reshuffle began, the senators’ legal team argued that the Texas Constitution requires the redistricting to be done in a regular session that will not take place. than in 2023.

That invalidates the new plans for the state House and state Senate, the sens attorneys said. Roland Gutierrez and Sarah Eckhardt, of San Antonio and Austin, respectively.

State attorneys have argued that the Legislative Assembly is “perfectly free to redistrict whenever it chooses” and warned that blocking the maps would disrupt the 2022 election already underway.

All parties face a tight schedule for the March 1 primaries. Early voting begins February 14.

Legal battles are not unfamiliar territory. Every Texas redistricting plan has either been changed or thrown out in federal court after being found to violate the US Constitution or federal Voting Rights Act.

The consolidated case was assigned to a special three-judge panel consisting of Democrat Karin Crump and Republicans Emily Miskel and Ken Wise. If the state Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s decision, “the parties need sufficient time to return to the three-judge Special District Court, obtain a final judgment, and complete any appeals of that judgment,” they said. said the challengers in a filing.

The senators’ legal team also argued that State House’s new map violated the Texas Constitution’s “county line rule,” which requires that sufficiently populated counties be kept intact in the drawing of Texas districts. House.

The Texas House Mexican-American Legislative Caucus made a similar case that the rule was broken, arguing that it was designed to ensure people have local representation.

The complaints relate to the Cameron County realignment in the Rio Grande Valley.

As lawmakers debated new House lines last fall, they narrowly passed a major change in South Texas. House District 37 was redesigned from a seat President Joe Biden won by 17 percentage points, to a seat the president won by just two points over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

This amendment, crafted by Republican Representative for Kingsville, JM Lozano, was denounced by some lawmakers in the Valley.

Plaintiffs’ legal team argued that the County Boundary Rule requires two districts to be entirely contained within Cameron County. Still, Lozano’s adjustments give Cameron County a single fully contained district, with two that connect to adjacent counties.

The new House plan “dilutes the representation of Hispanics, especially those who vote,” said District 37 Representative Alex Dominguez, who is running for a seat in the Texas Senate, in December. “It makes it harder for Hispanics to elect their candidate of choice.”

State attorneys argued that the new boundaries did not dilute the votes in Cameron County and that Cameron got the number of districts to which he was constitutionally entitled. District 37 Democratic candidate Ruben Cortez Jr. has joined the pursuit of the senators, alongside the political organization Tejano Democrats.

In the Federal Court fight, a three-judge panel set a September trial start date. The US Department of Justice has sued to block the Texas Congress and State House cards. Several civil rights and voting groups, as well as individual voters, are among the plaintiffs in the consolidated federal redistricting case.

Court protesters say the redrawn maps of Congress, legislation and the State Board of Education do not reflect major growth in the Hispanic community, which accounted for nearly half of the state’s population gain since 2020. color accounted for 95% of the state’s population boom. over the past decade, with much of the growth concentrated in cities and suburban areas, according to census data.

A push from Tarrant County Democratic State Senator Beverly Powell to temporarily block her district’s reshuffle is set to be heard in federal court on Tuesday.

In the plan for the state House elections, the number of majority white seats was increased from 83 to 89, among eligible voters. The number of Hispanic-majority districts fell from 33 to 30, and the number of black-majority districts fell from seven to six. Asian voters remain without majority control in any district.

The decade-long process following a U.S. census typically leads to lawsuits in Texas, with courts largely siding with Republicans in recent years. Legislators can draw maps in a way that benefits their party’s political future as long as they don’t discriminate based on race.

This year, GOP lawmakers have a clearer path to victory because Texas is no longer required to seek federal approval for new political maps. The new maps are generally expected to resist lawsuits, but battles over some aspects of the borders could drag on for years.


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