The NeverEnding Story of Texas Redistricting

After The NeverEnding Story III: Escape from Fantasia, I really didn't think the franchise would find any imitators. But then came the Texas redistricting saga, a neverending story in its own right. Still playing in theaters near you, if you happen to live in the Lone Star State.

Wednesday brought a new chapter in the drama. Legal battles have been raging for months, as different courts examine the legality of the state's original maps and over how state's interim maps should look. For the first time, all sides agreed on interim maps for the state Senate—likely the maps that will be used in 2012—but there's still disagreement on the maps for Congress and the state House. That means Texas' primary will be later than anyone was hoping. 

Many had hoped the state might keep its April 3 primary date, which had already been delayed once. Last week, the various plaintiffs groups had a minor blow-up when the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, made up of Texas LULAC, MALDEF and others, agreed to some compromises with the Attorney General's office. Plaintiffs, like the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the NAACP and state Democratic Party, objected to the comprised maps. The court urged all parties to continue negotiating. County election officials have testified that time was of the essence; they would need a set of maps pronto if expected to organize elections by April. 

Today the  federal panel of judges that's determining the interim maps pretty much ended any hope of an April primary. The court asked lawyers for both parties and the Secretary of State to assume a May 29 primary, and draw up filing deadlines and other such details accordingly. The primary could be even later, and in any case, any run-off elections, required if no candidate reaches 50 percent, would likely come in the middle of the summer.

That's a big blow to Republicans in the state, who hoping to wield some clout in the presidential primary. Texas has 155 delegates to the GOP convention, the second-most of any state in the country. Before the redistricting fiasco, the state originally scheduled its primary for March 6, Super Tuesday. Normally, in a primary this close, candidates would be spending time in Texas, a GOP stronghold, trying to garner support. But now, by the time Texas holds its primary, the race will likely be over. Only six states hold their primaries after May. 

Meanwhile Democrats have something to be happy about—a rare phenomenon in Texas. The Senate maps were basically about one question: what would happen to Democratic Senator Wendy Davis, whose district was made virtually unwinnable under the orginal maps. Davis, who blew up a Republican budget deal last year and prompted a special session to protest education cuts, wound up victorious. As the Texas Tribune reports:

The fight over the Senate map was all about Tarrant County's Senate District 10, where Democrat Wendy Davis is the incumbent. Under their agreement, they'll leave the district alone, leaving Davis with the same plan that put her in office. It's a marginally Republican district that voted for John McCain for president in 2008 and for Rick Perry for governor in 2010. But for Davis, who had been drawn into a more hostile district by her fellow legislators, the deal is a win.

But with two more maps to negotiate—and a looming decision on whether the state's initial maps will get preclearance—the story is far from over.