After leaving it on the backburner for their regular session, lawmakers are going into overtime to consider one of the most contentious issues in politics: redistricting. The goal of Republican leaders appears to be to quickly adopt the court-ordered boundaries for congressional and legislative districts that a court put in place last year. That would set a ceiling for how well Democrats can do in next year’s elections and beyond. Most analysts expect the Legislature to ram though the maps in a matter of days, though the session could last longer if Gov. Rick Perry adds other matters. The districts, while not what Republicans had hoped for when the once-a-decade process started in 2011, are more palatable than what minorities and Democrats might score in the legal arena. Courts found “intentional discrimination” against minority voters in the Legislature’s original maps, and minority groups and Democrats say the interim maps, which have never been pre-cleared by the Justice Department, contain similar problems.
Last year, in striking down temporary maps that would have benefited Democrats, the Supreme Court ruled that the will of the Legislature should be the starting point when developing electoral boundaries.
Since the current maps were signed off by Attorney General Greg Abbott and Republican lawmakers before the federal court in San Antonio approved them, GOP leaders hope the boundaries will stand up under additional scrutiny.
“We want to confirm the maps everyone ran on,” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said. “Third parties have every right to file appeals on the maps, but from the Legislature’s perspective, we’re going to adopt the maps we all ran under and that the three-judge panel has drawn.
House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said he would follow Abbott’s advice.
“The attorney general has been providing that legal strategy and legal advice, and we continue to welcome that advice,” Straus said. “We’ll take up issues the governor puts on the call when he calls us.”
Matt Angle, a Democratic strategist who has been fighting Republican redistricting efforts for years, said the interim maps were flawed.
“These maps retain many of the characteristics of the discriminatory maps that were overturned,” he said.