By Jimmy Ardis
Texas: The US Supreme Court threw Texas redistricting and elections into a frenzy on Friday when it temporarily blocked the recently implemented interim maps that were drawn by a San Antonio federal court. The nation’s high court is set to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the maps next on January 9, 2012 – just under a month. The move has put the fate of the 2012 elections in a state of confusion.
Texas officials have been in an uproar this month over the interim maps drawn by the San Antonio federal court responsible for the state’s consolidated redistricting case. Over the past month the court has implemented newly drawn maps for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas State Senate, and Texas’ congressional delegation. The San Antonio court was forced to draw interim maps in order for the 2012 elections to proceed without further delay after a DC-based court rejected Texas’ maps on grounds they violated the Voting Rights Act.
The maps increase minority voting power and in turn the likelihood of Democrats gaining seats. Republicans were not pleased with the court-drawn maps, to say the least. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been highly critical of the court’s maps since day one, claiming the court was overreaching and creating policy instead of upholding the law. Abbott attempted to block the plans by requesting emergency stays from the United State Supreme Court. The Attorney General filed a request on November 28th asking the high court to halt implementation of the interim State House and State Senate plans. He filed a similar request for Texas’ congressional map on December 1st.
The Supreme Court answered the Texas Attorney General on Friday December 9th, temporarily halting the court-drawn maps until it can hear the case. As it currently stands, the signature filing deadline is December 15 for all state legislative and congressional candidates running for election in 2012. But those dates are now in peril since the Supreme Court isn’t set to hear arguments on the redistricting plans until January 9th.
While the Supreme Court is gearing to look at the case, the San Antonio court, along with Texas officials, is currently trying to figure what to do about the primary election dates – given that the filing deadlines are now moot. The court held hearings today to hear proposed plans on how to handle the primaries. Two camps have emerged, with those calling for two separate primaries on one side and those requesting one primary at a much later date on the other.