Texas congressional hopefuls will begin filing the paper work for their House campaigns today after an eventful holiday weekend. On Saturday, a federal court in San Antonio court approved a new congressional map that overturned the one drawn up by the state's Republican legislature earlier this year, granting Democrats and the state's burgeoning Hispanic population a significantly better chance of picking up seats next year.
Texas Republicans had a golden opportunity after the party increased on its already substantial legislative majority in the 2010 midterm elections. Results from the U.S. Census granted the state four new seats in the US House, and Texas Republicans used their majority to draw a new congressional map that would likely have made three of those seats a sure-win for Republicans. Of course, the 20.6 percent increase in population over the past decade didn't come from a swell in likely GOP voters. Minorities have accounted for 87 percent of the population growth over that time. Hispanics now account for 37.6 percent of Texas, and are headed toward becoming the majority in the near future.
Unfortunately for GOP electioneering plans, Texas falls under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, which requires the state to seek approval from either the Department of Justice or a federal court before changes to its election laws can be implemented. The state didn't trust its standing with DOJ, so it asked for approval from a federal court in Washington, D.C. But as the deadline for the 2012 election approached, a federal court in San Antonio stepped in to draw temporary maps for the coming election year. Having the technocrats on the federal bench draw the maps created a saner outcome, with three of the four new disctricts being minority-majority.
Even though candidates are headed to district offices to launch their campaigns today, the fracas has not been completely settled. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court to request an emergency stay on the judge-drawn maps and has roped in former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement for his cause.