Texas AG, minority group begin negotiations over redistricting

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 31, 2012, 4:57am


SAN ANTONIO (Legal Newsline) - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office and a minority group opposing the state's redrawn redistricting maps are reportedly negotiating a settlement in order to meet an April 3 primary deadline.

According to The Associated Press, a three-judge panel in San Antonio held a daylong hearing Friday.

The panel told Abbott's office and the groups, including the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, if they could not come to an agreement by Feb. 6, the primary would have to be delayed.

The primary already has been postponed from March to April because of the ongoing legal battle over redistricting.

At issue is which boundaries the state will use -- maps drawn last summer by the state's Legislature, interim maps substituted by the federal court, or a variation of the two.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Texas showed a gain of more than 4 million people, mostly Latinos and African-Americans. The population growth means Texas will add four more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives next year -- from 32 to 36 seats in the 435-member body.

Opponents of the map drawn by the state Legislature argued the new boundaries dilute the voting power of minorities.

Several minority groups filed a lawsuit, and the federal court in San Antonio created another map it claimed more fairly represented the new minority populations.

In November, the State challenged the court-drawn maps and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their arguments.

Earlier this month, the nation's highest court ruled that the federal court went too far in coming up with its own redistricting plan.

The Court vacated the orders implementing the maps and remanded the cases, saying it was unclear whether the federal court followed the "appropriate standards" in drawing the maps.

The same day, Abbott asked the federal court to speed up scheduled proceedings so the primary could still be held April 3.

At this point, the State says it is focused on a temporary map.

"An interim map for 2012. That's what we need to get done now," Assistant Attorney General David Mattax told the federal court Friday, according to the AP.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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