The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in a landmark voting rights case last week released Texas from federal supervision of its election laws and procedures for the first time since 1972. But the clarity of that ruling was fleeting. This week, attorneys for minority groups filed motions with separate three-judge panels in San Antonio and Washington, D.C., asking that Texas be returned to federal oversight under a section of the Voting Rights Act left intact by the Supreme Court. Court watchers — and the San Antonio court itself, which held a hearing Monday — are taking the new challenges very seriously. Lawyers for the state want the whole thing dismissed. “There’s no question this is new territory for everyone,” wrote Dallas attorney Michael Li in his widely followed (among people who follow arcane politics) Texas Redistricting blog at txredistricting.org.
For those who don’t usually dig deep into details but still want to keep up, the initial bottom line is that it could take the courts months to work this out. And there aren’t all that many months left before the political machinery must start moving for party primary elections next March.
The candidate filing period for those primaries is set to begin Nov. 9, with the elections March 4.
Extended courtroom complications could put legislatively drawn district maps in legal limbo, delaying the primaries or leading the courts to draw temporary maps — both of which happened last year.