by Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune, a TSB content sharing partner
SAN ANTONIO — A panel of three federal judges stuck between the need for redistricting maps in a hurry and the need for maps that hold up in court told the parties to negotiate over the weekend and to bring in the results next week.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia told an attorney for the state that the parties should try to agree “to as many districts as possible” by early next week “if you want to have an election in April.”
He also said the parties should agree to an election date in case the maps can’t be done in time for an April election.
Garcia and two other judges — Jerry Smith of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez — are trying to decide when to draw maps for the state’s congressional and legislative elections, when to hold the state’s primary elections, and whether the primaries should be split to allow Texans to take part in presidential elections early while giving the courts time to draw maps for the other elections, to be held later on.
And the panel is looking over its shoulder as it considers drawing its own maps now, wondering if it should wait for a Washington court’s preclearance ruling on maps drawn last year by the Legislature.
In an ideal world — one without election deadlines looming — the San Antonio judges would wait for a preclearance ruling from the Washington judges before drawing a map. They’d incorporate that work with their own, draw maps and let the parties appeal to the Supreme Court if they wanted to.
This time, the process got jangled. The Washington court was slow. The San Antonio court, trying to put maps in place to meet the election schedule, jumped out of line. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the state that the San Antonio court should have used the maps drawn by the Legislature as the basis for their interim maps.
And now, the courts are back where they were in November. The state wants the San Antonio court to draw maps in a hurry; lawyers for the Texas Democratic Party and for the various groups that sued the state over the maps want the judges to wait for the Washington ruling before drawing maps.
Delaying the maps would further delay primaries that were already moved to April 3 from March 6. Several dates were informally suggested in court, including April 17, May 29 and June 6.
Read the complete article at The Texas Tribune.