Texas AG says he'll fight panel's ruling on redistricting

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 29, 2012, 11:30am


AUSTIN, Texas (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Tuesday his office plans to fight a decision by a federal judicial panel, which ruled redistricting maps drawn by the state Legislature are illegal.

"Today's decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution. The Attorney General's Office will continue defending the maps enacted by the Texas Legislature and will immediately take steps to appeal this flawed decision to the U.S. Supreme Court," the attorney general said in a statement.

Earlier Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia concluded that Texas "failed to show that any of the redistricting plans merits preclearance."

Preclearance, or preapproval, is a VRA requirement for jurisdictions like Texas that have a history of discrimination against minority voters.

Abbott had sued seeking a declaratory ruling by the panel to bypass the U.S. Department of Justice's preclearance requirement.

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

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

The 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 separate 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.

Abbott said Tuesday the D.C. court's decision applies to the maps originally enacted by the state Legislature, not the interim plans approved by the San Antonio federal court panel.

Those maps were agreed to by the State and minority groups.

The November elections, the attorney general said, will "proceed as planned" under the interim maps.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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