The federal trial over the districts drawn in 2013 for the Texas House of Representatives and U.S. House of Representatives has concluded. The state presented its defense during the trial’s last two days. The three-judge panel appeared skeptical of its arguments.
Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo), chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, invoked legislative privilege several times during questioning about legislative intent and decision-making processes, and the state invoked the same privilege to deny plaintiffs’ some documents relating to the redistricting process. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez wondered how plaintiffs could prove a claim of intentional discrimination if they are unable to see documents and have certain questions answered regarding legislative intent.
The state’s final witness, U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), defended his district’s boundaries as one of the few genuinely swing districts in the country, and remarked that more districts nationwide should be competitive.
The judges did not issue a ruling, and it is unclear when one will be issued. It is generally believed that the judges do not want primaries to be delayed (as occurred in 2012) or voided and re-run (as occurred in 2006) as a result of any court-ordered maps.
The issue is not expected to be taken up during the special session that begins Tuesday. In a May court filing, the state advised that it “does not intend to undertake redistricting in a special session,” and Gov. Greg Abbott did not include the issue among 20 he has placed on the formal proclamation calling the session or a draft “supplemental call.”
This same three-judge panel has previously ruled that he maps drawn in 2011 for the Texas state house districts and the U.S. House violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act through use of vote dilution, racial gerrymandering and violations of the one-person, one-vote rule. Some of these deficiencies may have been mooted by the legislative adoption of maps based on court-ordered boundaries in 2013, and this trial explored whether and to what extent deficiencies remain in the current districts.
This panel also previously denied the state’s appeal directly to a higher court on the grounds that it had not issued a final judgment.
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