Texas Redistricting: Hurry Up and Wait

Friday, the Supreme Court sent a series of redistricting maps back to the panel of federal judges in San Antonio that drew them. Today, that panel decided to speed things up. In a five-page order Monday afternoon, the panel asked all parties in the redistricting case to be ready for a status hearing on January 27—rather than February 1.  The candidate filing deadline, currently set for next Wednesday, is also likely to be extended. The court explained that it will likely have to throw out the already-delayed primary date of April 3, unless all parties can agree to a set of interim maps and submit them to the court by February 6. That's about as likely as [insert your hell-freezing-over analogy here].

The Supreme Court determined that the panel of judges should have given more weight to the maps approved by the Texas Legislature when redrawing the lines last fall. The San Antonio panel wants to wait to create a new set of maps until yet another court case is done—a case in the D.C. courts that will determine whether the state of Texas violated the Voting Rights Act in its initial redistricting effort.  In fact, the San Antonio panel included a request in its order that those involved in the D.C. court case "rule on the section 5 issues in time for this court to incorporate those decisions into its ultimate decision on the redistricting plans." The court must decide whether to wait for the D.C. court before making its own decisions. 

For election officials, the most concerning part of the order likely came half-way through, in which the court explained that it was giving "serious consideration" to a split primary, in which the presidential primary (as well as some others) would take place in early April in most districts, but those under contention would have primaries later on. The judges asked lawyers for the state to be ready to say whether it would be willing to help shoulder some of those additional costs.

In the meantime, since he apparently didn't have enough to do, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has brought a suit against the Department of Justice to allow the state to implement its voter-ID law—among the most extreme in the country—without delay.