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Court orders interim maps drawn

I was just asked recently what will happen if the redistricting litigation isn’t resolved before the November 14 start of the filing period for 2012 candidates. I responded that I wasn’t really sure. Shortly thereafter, this story appeared.

The federal three-judge panel in San Antonio presiding over a lawsuit challenging Texas’ congressional redistricting map has decided to draw an interim map to ensure that the March primaries can continue without delay.

Federal law forbids local elections officials from using the new state maps until a federal district court in Washington D.C. decides if the redistricting plans passed by the Texas Legislature comply with the minimum requirements of the Voting Rights Act, a process known as “preclearance.”

The interim maps would take the place of the current district boundaries only if the court is unable to preclear the maps in time for the March primary elections.

Via Texas Redistricting, here’s the court’s order. Here’s a summary of the schedule, quoting from the order:

1. The parties will file briefs by October 7, 2011, that may serve to advise and guide the Court on the process for devising any interim court-drawn plans.

2. The parties will prepare their respective proposed plans for the Court’s consideration, and those plans will be filed no later than Monday, October 17, 2011.

3. The parties will respond to those proposed plans to which they have objections no later than Monday, October 24, 2011.

4. The parties will file a joint written advisory no later than Friday, October 28, 2011, informing the Court of the following:

a. The estimated length of time for a hearing on the proposed plans;
b. A list of witnesses and documents that they may offer at the hearing;
c. Suggestions as to the manner in which evidence may be presented at the hearing;
d. Any other matters that should be brought to the Court’s attention at that time.

5. The Court will hold a hearing, beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, November 2, 2011, in which the parties will be expected to present their proposed plans.

All of this will be mooted if the DC court grants preclearance or orders changes to bring the maps into compliance, but as that doesn’t seem likely to happen in time, these interim maps will be what gets used. I presume since only the SBOE map has received preclearance that there will be three interim maps, one each for the State House, the State Senate, and Congress. Needless to say, more than a few people’s legislative careers could hang in the balance here. The court urged but did not require the various plaintiffs to agree on the maps that they will propose, so we may see multiple potential alternatives. The state is also allowed to submit alternative plans, though I’ll be surprised if they do. This is a mighty tight timeline, so expect things to happen real fast between now and November 2.

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  1. […] state from implementing its new redistricting maps, and that until preclearance is granted it will draw its own maps to use for next […]

  2. […] was the deadline for parties in the redistricting lawsuit being heard in San Antonio to file interim plans for the court to consider in the event preclearance is not granted in time for candidate filing. […]