Big day in San Antonio tomorrow.
Groups involved in the state’s redistricting fight were ordered by a San Antonio federal court Friday to continue negotiations through the weekend over interim redistricting maps for the 2012 election.
The court order comes before a key Tuesday hearing when the three-judge panel will hear arguments about how the state’s interim maps should be redrawn.
If the groups can’t reach a deal before the hearing, they’ll continue negotiations in the courtroom.
The order also contained a footnote that may indicate the judges are interested in hearing arguments on whether the Voting Rights Act was violated when the Republican-dominated Legislature altered the Austin-based congressional district of Democratic U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett.
“They want to know why Doggett’s district is protected,” said Michael Li, an elections law attorney, who has paid close attention to the redistricting battle.
He said the footnote could mean trouble for a coalition congressional district in the Fort Worth area that was created by the San Antonio court.
That hearing was originally scheduled for Wednesday, but was moved up a day, with the possibility that it could continue on Wednesday. The court had issued an order on Friday urging the parties to keep talking, saying it not had ruled out any compromise yet, including the Abbott map. You can see all of the parties’ briefs regarding the interim maps here. This Statesman story gives you a good idea why consensus is so hard to find.
In other developments related to that map, the Perez plaintiffs said that they too had been excluded from the negotiations that Abbott had, apparently with just the MALDEF plaintiffs. The Justice Department lays out its problems with the existing maps, noting that the DC court found evidence of discriminatory intent with several districts, and said that the San Antonio court cannot waive the requirement that counties obtain preclearance for new precinct boundaries, but that an expedited review could still allow an April primary. Rep. Henry Cuellar, who was criticized by his Democratic colleagues for signing off on the Abbott map, filed an advisory saying he thinks a deal that protects Rep. Lloyd Doggett is still possible. Rep. Joe Barton filed his own advisory, which included a new Congressional map proposal, telling the San Antonio court it needs to wait till the DC court issues its ruling. Barring a settlement to which all parties agree, I think this is the right thing for the San Antonio court to do as well. You can kiss an April primary good-bye in that case, so maybe that’s an incentive for Abbott to actually listen to the other plaintiffs and work something out that truly is fair and acceptable. If Abbott wants to give Rick Santorum a chance to surge across Texas in a meaningful way, he knows who to call.