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Harris County interim map in the works

Speaking of interim maps, Harris County and the plaintiffs suing over the proposed new County Commissioners have begun mediation to come up with a temporary solution of their own.

The goal of the mediation is to draft an interim map on which the 2012 elections can be run. Unless the parties can agree on a map to stand until the next redistricting in 10 years, however, the lawsuit will continue, plaintiffs’ attorney Chad Dunn said.

An interim map is needed because the difference in population between the biggest and smallest precinct in the current map is unlawfully large. State and federal court decisions require the population numbers to be roughly equal.

“This would just be a way to see if we can avoid expensive litigation on an issue that doesn’t need to be decided now,” First Assistant County Attorney Terry O’Rourke said. “If the county and the plaintiffs can agree on an interim plan it would be in the interest of everyone.”

The plaintiffs’ claims do not need to be resolved quickly, O’Rourke said, because Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman is not up for election until 2014. The other three commissioners will be on the ballot next year.


The DOJ may or may not request changes. Dunn said the lawsuit could move forward under either scenario. If an interim map is agreed to, he added, the DOJ may wait to rule until elections are held, allowing federal lawyers to collect more data.

See here, here, and here for some background. Precinct 2 of course is the most competitive one, though it was made less so by the proposed new map. The idea of waiting till after the 2012 election, assuming an interim map can be agreed on, is to see what the vote looks like so that a more detailed analysis of Precinct 2’s potential as a Latino opportunity district can be made. But we have to get to the interim map first, and as with the legislative and Congressional maps, the clock is ticking for this election.

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  1. WS says:

    It’s a little dubious that all of them aren’t up in the year after redistricting, like the State Senate. Some voters after 2012 will have voted for two Commissioners current terms, and others will have voted for none. This is probably unconstitutional.

  2. landslide says:

    good point, WS. I found the statement odd that 3 of the pcts are up for election this year, and only pct 2 is in 2014, but then it occurred to me that Pct 4 will be on both ballots since Cagle is currently serving an unexired term.

  3. Mainstream says:

    The same pattern holds for other units of government. We are only electing 3 of the 9 HISD school board members this cycle, 3 of 9 community college trustees, plus whatever unexpired terms need to be filled for each.

    I would worry that the settlement map will necessarily become the final map for commissioners courts. There is incredible inertia about these processes. Once the commissioners agree to hold an election with an interim map, they will probably be stuck with it for the decade.

  4. […] Mediation failed, so this was the next step. I certainly can’t say that I’m surprised. All of the testimony was given yesterday, and we could get a new map as soon as today. “After the mediation Thursday it just seems like the other side is almost not negotiating in good faith, like anything they propose they know would be unacceptable” to the county, [Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack] Morman said Monday. “So, at some point – and I guess we’re at that point today – you just say, ‘What’s the point, let’s just let the judge do her job.’‚ÄČ” […]