By Tim Eaton, American-Statesman Staff
The recently dormant Texas redistricting issue woke up Thursday with a disagreement between the state’s attorney general and a Latino legislators’ group.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has called on the Legislature to make the current — and interim — redistricting maps permanent.
Abbott’s letter to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus — which was dated March 8 and just uncovered by Michael Li, a redistricting expert and author of a redistricting blog — said if the interim maps become permanent, then further intervention from federal courts might not be necessary. That, Abbott’s letter said, could “ensure an orderly election without further delay or uncertainty.”
“Enacting the interim plans into law would confirm the Legislature’s intent for a redistricting plan that fully comports with the law, and will insulate the State’s redistricting plans from further legal challenge,” Abbott wrote.
The Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, or MALC for short, responded in a filing with the San Antonio federal court that approved the interim maps. MALC said the interim maps for the Texas House and the U.S. House of Representatives still might not comply with the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
“The attempt of the State of Texas to circumvent the judicial process through legislation that fails to provide a final remedial redistricting plan for Texas House and Texas Congressional Districts is even more reason for this Court to begin the process that will lead to a final and just remedial plan for future Texas elections,” MALC said in its filing.
MALC was one of several groups that sued the state over some of the Legislature-approved redistricting maps, saying they discriminated against minority Texans.
Every 10 years, the Legislature redraws boundaries for the Texas House, state Senate, U.S. House and the State Board of Education to reflect population changes reflected in the U.S. Census. Texas, along with several other mostly southern governments with a history of voter discrimination, must receive federal “preclearance” for new maps and other changes to election procedures.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case from Alabama, is considering the constitutionality of preclearance as outlined in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. After the court rules in that case, Texas’ redistricting case will resume in San Antonio.