3 Nueces County election districts must be redrawn, court rules
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito stepped in to stay two rulings by a lower court that declared one U.S. congressional district and two state representative districts in Nueces County invalid. These and several other districts in the state were drawn with the “intention of discriminating against minorities,” according to a three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio.
Alito, who handles emergency appeals to the Supreme Court from an area of the United States that includes Texas, put a hold on a lower court ruling that the district’s boundaries violated the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act.
Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton immediately appealed the ruling that U.S. House District 27, currently held by Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi), was drawn to dilute Hispanic votes. He is expected to also appeal the decision on state districts. District 35, the second district included in the ruling on congressional districts, is currently held by Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin).
A hearing has been set for Sept. 5 in San Antonio to begin negotiations on redrawing the lines. Alito also set a Sept. 5 deadline. He ordered the minority groups suing the state over district lines to file a response to the state’s desire to keep those boundaries intact for the 2018 elections.
HOUSE DISTRICTS, TOO
A second court ruling invalidating State District 32, represented by Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), and State District 34, held by Abel Herrero (D-Robstown), was handed down by the same three-judge panel a few days after the congressional ruling. Seven other state districts declared in violation as part of the second ruling are:
• District 103, Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas)
• District 104, Roberto Alonzo (D-Dallas)
• District 105, Rodney Anderson (R-Irving)
• District 54, Scott Cosper (R-Killeen)
• District 55, Hugh Shine (R-Temple)
• District 90, Ramon Romero (D-Fort Worth)
• District 93, Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth)
The court set a second hearing for the state districts for Sept. 6, also in San Antonio.
Paxton’s appeal of the congressional district decision seeks a stay of the lower court’s rulings pending the Supreme Court’s review. The motion also asks that Gov. Greg Abbott be prepared to call a second special session of the legislature if the Supreme Court backs the district court ruling.
The current map outlining election districts for both federal and state offices was adopted in 2013 based on the 2010 census numbers.
Abbott has said he has no intention of calling a second special session of the 85th Legislature. Unless he changes his mind, any further action by that state body will have to wait until the 86th session in January 2019. In that case, the federal judges would be redrawing the boundaries, something Paxton hopes a Supreme Court decision will make unnecessary.
“Judges should get out of the business of drawing maps,” Paxton said in a statement after filing his repeal. “We firmly believe that the maps Texas used in the last three election cycles are lawful, and we will aggressively defend the maps on all fronts.”
December 2017 is the filing deadline for candidates running in the 2018 mid-term election. A census, requiring another round of redistricting, begins in 2020.
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