Late Wednesday, AG Greg Abbott requested that the San Antonio court stay its order implementing new maps for Congress, the State House, and the State Senate, exhibiting his usual grace and class in doing so. Not unexpectedly, the San Antonio court declined to change its mind to satisfy his whining, so it’s off to the Supreme Court next. As Texas Redistricting notes, this is basically 2004 all over again, with the shoe on the other foot for each side.
Responding to arguments in 2004 that going forward with elections under the DeLay map would result in ‘irreparable’ harm, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was dismissive of many of the same arguments the state likely will try to make in 2011.
In 2004, redistricting plaintiffs argued that little harm would result from allowing the existing, legally enforceable map to be used for one more cycle. On the other hand, redistricting plaintiffs told the Supreme Court that if the court allowed elections under the disputed map and lated “reverse[d] the judgment below, the rights of Texas voters will have been illegally abridged, and their Representatives will have been thrown out of office solely based on party.”
Abbott sharply disagreed in his 2004 response:
Applicants [minority groups and Democrats] suggest that the loss of incumbency advantage would constitute irreparable harm …. Applicants argue … that the incumbent, once beaten in an election, would be unable to win again even if district lines are restored later. That claimed anti-democratic advantage in an election is hardly sufficient to justify extraordinary relief.
Today, Abbott sounds a whole lot more like the 2004 plaintiffs when he argues:
[M]ore troubling is the injury that will result from allowing the 2012 Texas House elections to go forward on an unlawfully composed redistricting plan. Once done, the harm caused to the State and its citizens cannot be undone when if the elections are later invalidated, because the results of the election would be irreversible.
So how might this play out this time?
In key ways, the state’s hand seems weaker than in 2004.
You never know what the Supreme Court will do, but you’d think that they’d let the lower courts go about their business before they got involved. I presume we’ll know soon enough. See here for all the feedback on the interim Congressional map, and here for the alternate maps that accompany those comments.