Texas facing May primary if redistricting not resolved, judge says

Marilyn Tennissen Feb. 15, 2012, 4:26pm

AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Super Tuesday is out, April is out and now it may be the end of May before Texas can hold its Republican primary.

With the debate over the state's redistricting maps dragging on, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Jerry Smith told party leaders not to expect a chance for a primary election until May 29.

The political boundaries are being reshaped after the 2010 Census added four congressional seats to Texas, which could influence which party has control in the U.S. House of Representatives.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Texas showed a gain of more than 4 million people, mostly Latinos and African-Americans.

A map drawn by the Legislature came under fire from minority groups, who felt it did not adequately represent the increase in the Hispanic population. The groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Antonio to stop the legislative maps. Democrats also objected because they believed the new lines favored Republicans at the state level.

A judicial panel created another map it claimed more fairly represents the new minority populations. But in November, the state challenged the court-drawn maps and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their arguments.

In January, the nation's highest court ruled that the federal court went too far in coming up with its own redistricting plan. The court vacated the orders implementing the maps and remanded the cases, saying it was unclear whether the federal court followed the "appropriate standards" in drawing the maps.

With the maps in dispute it became impossible for Texas to hold its primaries on March 6 Super Tuesday as originally scheduled. Things looked hopeful for an April 3 date when the state, represented by Attorney General Greg Abbott, and several minority groups came up with a compromise Feb. 6. But they could only agree on the senate district maps, and the judicial panel continues to push for a resolution of the Texas House and congressional maps.

But until the lawsuit by the minority groups and another suit claiming violations of the Voting Rights Act are resolved, the San Antonio judicial panel must come up with a compromise.

A primary in May or later could make Texas irrelevant in choosing the Republican presidential nominee.

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