The U.S. Department of Justice, charged with considering whether Harris County’s redistricting map meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act, has asked the county for more information to make its ruling.
The DOJ letter is here. What they asked for was basically this:
1. A detailed explanation of the process leading to the county’s adoption of the 2011 redistricting plan.
2. Documents relating to the proposed plan and alternate plan, including correspondence between Court members and whatever research was done.
3. Precinct returns for any and all elections in the county from 2002 on that involved a minority candidate.
4. A detailed description of the county’s efforts, both formal and informal, to secure the views of county residents regarding the proposed change.
5. A map that shows where the Commissioners live, plus facilities and service locations established by incumbent Commissioners.
Some of this has already been provided; the DOJ asked for whatever else they’ve got, presumably because what they gave the first time wasn’t enough. I think Item #4 has already been made clear, though perhaps not in a way that will favor the Court’s efforts. What they didn’t ask was for more data on what baseline was used. I don’t know what if anything to read into that. In any event, the County has 60 days to comply, and as with the other maps no changes can be made until the DOJ is satisfied. As they are subject to the same electoral calendar, including the December 12 filing deadline, it’s not clear to me what happens if the DOJ says No. There is a lawsuit over the map, so I suppose the judge could ask for interim solutions, but I’m not a lawyer, so don’t take my word for it. We’ll see if the County complies with this or makes like the Secretary of State and punts.