A trio of significant cases involving election districts, or a lack thereof, saw action in the last 48 hours. Two moved toward further trials while a third may be coming to an end.
Congressional Redistricting: A status conference has been set for April 27 to discuss a trial schedule for plaintiffs’ request to prevent the current congressional map from being used for the 2018 elections, whether Texas should once again be required to submit election law changes for federal preclearance and other outstanding claims in the case. Among the latter are claims against the districts drawn in 2011 and 2013 for the Texas House of Representatives.
A recent ruling invalidated several districts as they were drawn by the Legislature in 2011, but that map was never used. Plaintiffs have argued that some defects found by the court in that map still exist in the maps in use today, which were originally drawn by a court and later adopted by the Legislature. Judge Xavier Rodriguez also requested that the state be prepared to discuss whether the Legislature intends to redraw the map during the legislative session.
Statewide Judicial Elections: U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos denied the state’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the at-large election of members of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Plaintiffs argue that at-large elections for courts of last resort constitute an illegal vote dilution under the federal Voting Rights Act.
Pasadena: The city council voted, 7-1, to withhold paying the law firm defending the city’s redistricting plan. In February, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the city deliberately discriminated against Hispanic/Latino voters when it switched from eight single-member districts to a plan consisting of six single-member and two at-large districts. That ruling applied only to the city’s request that the May 2017 election be held using the city’s 6-2 plan. The council’s vote to withhold payment – billed for work already completed – indicates it may be unwilling to continue to appeal the court’s rulings. The city has spent approximately $2.5M on defending Voting Rights Act claims, according to council member Sammy Casados.
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