The Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments on the Texas redistricting of 2003 on Wednesday, March 1. The Lone Star Project sent out this letter (PDF) yesterday, with an update on where things stand, a timeline, a brief bio of the attorneys involved, and an analysis of what might happen if the 2003 map is ruled unconstitutional.
If the Supreme Court invalidates the map due to violation of the Voting Rights Act:
• The Court will almost certainly remand the case to the three-judge court to provide a remedy consistent with the Supreme Court ruling.
• Given that the Supreme Court’s accelerated schedule allows time for a remedy prior to the 2006 elections, a new plan would have to be devised to fix whatever voting rights problem the Court finds.
• Normally, courts defer to the legislature to craft new lines to correct a violation, but the court may also impose its own plan to take effect in the 2006 elections. Consistent with the precedent established by the federal court in the Bush v. Vera congressional redistricting case in 1996, the Court could order that the March primary results be abandoned and that special congressional elections be held in new and legal districts.
• The most likely scenario for the 2006 elections and beyond would be the reinstatement of the 2002 courtdrawn plan, because it is a legal plan based on the 2000 census that was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, and it is the logical default plan in the event the Supreme Court declares the 2003 plan illegal.
Who Might Run?
The seats lost under the DeLay plan were: District 1 (Sandlin), District 2 (Turner), District 4 (Hall switched parties), District 9 (Lampson), District 17 (Stenholm) and District 24 (Frost). If the map is reversed, Democrats would almost certainly reclaim Districts 9 and 24. It is also possible to reclaim Districts 1 and 2, assuming the former Members return or other very strong candidates are recruited. Obviously, District 4 is lost, and District 17 is strongly Republican and would not likely be reclaimed.
An interesting case is the old CD23, where Henry Bonilla won a close one against Henry Cuellar. As things stand now, of course, Cuellar would get less institutional support in a rematch of the two Henrys than he otherwise might have. Jeb Hensarling at 58% had the next-closest win among the Republicans. As for CD22, who knows? It's moderately less Republican now, but the DeLay Scandal-Go-Round factor clouds things a bit. Of course, DeLay would not have the well-funded Lampson running against him in this scenario. I'm not sure that any substitute Dem would be able to raise the kind of money needed to be truly competitive in that district, especially if the campaign schedule is shortened. I don't even have a clear idea of who'd take a shot at it.
Finally, there is another possibility that LSP doesn't mention. The only dissent in the original three-court ruling came from Judge John Ward, who argued that CD23 was illegal but the rest of the map was okay. It's not out of the question to me that if SCOTUS punts this back to the three-judge panel, they might decide to go with that idea and limit the do-over to just that district. I'll guess that in that case, CD23 would become more of a swing district, and CD28 (which picked up most of the Dem-heavy Webb County as a result) would become more anchored in Bexar County. You can do the math on that one from there.
Anyway. All briefs filed in the case can be found here. A decision is expected in the June/July time frame. Stay tuned.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 24, 2006 to Killer D's | TrackBack