If Gov. Greg Abbott calls a second special legislative session this summer, it won’t likely be for redistricting. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton revealed Friday that Abbott has no plans to ask lawmakers to redraw the state’s congressional map — found by a federal court this week to discriminate against Latino and black voters — in a fresh round of legislative overtime. Instead, Paxton is appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court and trying to keep the boundaries intact for the 2018 elections, according to his filings to a panel of three judges in San Antonio. On Tuesday, the panel ruled that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 violate the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, setting up a redistricting scramble ahead of the 2018 elections. The judges ruled that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.
The judges asked Texas whether lawmakers would return to Austin to try making a new map, or if Republican leadership would wait for court-drawn boundaries.
In his filings Friday, Paxton revealed a state plan to wriggle free of any consequences ahead of the 2018 elections. While asking the Supreme Court to overturn the lower court’s ruling that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters — the fourth such federal ruling this year — Paxton also requested an injunction that would protect Texas from needing a new map.
Barring a Supreme Court order, the San Antonio judges would approve new boundaries.