Monday, January 30, 2012

No Joy On A Quick Redistricting Agreement Between The State And Plaintiffs

The Austin Chronicle / 1:17pm, Mon. Jan. 30:

Monday, February 6, 2012 -- That's the deadline set last Friday by the San Antonio District Court redistricting panel for all parties to agree on interim House, Senate and Congressional maps, or they'll miss the deadline for the April 3 unified primary.

There were rumors floating around all weekend that there could be a deal struck as early as today on interim maps, but with all parties traveling to D.C. for closing arguments in the D.C. District Court preclearance hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 31, that seems unlikely.

... The D.C. District Court is expected to rule this week on whether the legislature's maps violate the preclearance terms of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

... There are undoubtedly voices in the negotiating room suggesting that the plaintiffs would be in a much stronger negotiating position – and that the state would have little legal wiggle room – if they just wait a couple more days.

... The Mexican American Legislative Caucus told the Chronicle this morning that a deal is not imminent, even though they are all working towards some kind of agreement.

... LULAC [League of United Latin American Citizens] attorney Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. confirmed to the Chronicle that his clients (who are still pushing for coalition districts) are still pushing to wait for the D.C. ruling, which was the position all plaintiffs stated to the San Antonio District Court panel before this weekend.

"As to negotiations," Vera wrote in an email to the Chronicle this afternoon, "they have totally broken down as of now. I am sure they will resume but I doubt an agreement if at all by this Monday so I don't expect an April 3rd election." (emphasis added)

Read the full story @ The Austin Chronicle

Even if the parties miraculously agree to a set of maps this week and the San Antonio District Court the accepts those maps on or before February 6 - the unified election date will likely push out from April 3 to at least April 17.

A representative for Texas county election offices told the San Antonio court last Friday that the larger counties require a 10 weeks lead time to organize an election from whatever date the court sets as the new candidate filing deadline, after new district maps are drawn. The first day of early voting for a April 3 election would be March 19. It may a logistical impossibility for county election officials to draw election precinct maps, mail voter registration cards, prepare ballots, hire election Judges, Alternate Judges and Clerks, and program voting machines by March 19, if they don't have Senate, House, and Congressional maps until some time after Feb. 6.

The Justice Department also told the San Antonio District court in a filing on Friday that the foreshortened February 6 - April 3 primary schedule proposed by the Texas Republican Party wouldn’t allow the 45 days specified in both federal (MOVE Act) and Texas law for military and overseas voters to participate in the election process.

Increasingly, it seems the only conceivable option remaining to hold an election on April 3 is to split the election into two parts, with part one held on April 3rd. The primary election held on April 3rd would allow voters to cast ballots for presidential candidates. A second primary election for all other statewide and local offices would then be held at a later date - maybe as late as June - after the courts resolve the redistricting disputes.

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