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Next phases of redistricting lawsuit scheduled

Part One takes place next week.

The trial over 2011 House district boundaries begins July 14 in U.S. District Court, where a hearing Tuesday shed light on how the case could unfold.

The proceeding are expected to last at least six days — Monday through Saturday — with testimony from about 50 witnesses.

The court will make extensive use of technology to display versions of district maps and communications that went into drawing them.

[...]

Some of the plaintiffs’ requests for relief already were granted in Houston and El Paso, and plaintiffs said they’re seeking to preserve those changes and push for more minority “opportunity districts” in areas including Midland-Odessa and Lubbock.

As the trial draws near, judges were asked to rule on several requests to allow testimony.

On Monday, the judges granted the state’s request to exclude testimony from Austin civil rights attorney James Harrington, who MALC sought to present as an expert.

Left pending were rulings on whether to allow testimony from two other potential plaintiffs’ witnesses, including St. Mary’s University political scientist Henry Flores. State attorneys on Tuesday said their testimony should not be allowed because it wouldn’t be relevant or helpful.

Also to be decided before trial is whether attorney-client privilege applies to potential witnesses including Denise Davis, former chief of staff and legal adviser to House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.

That’s the State House map we’re talking about. Part Two is for the 2011 US House map, and it will be argued in August.

A federal three-judge panel in San Antonio said Thursday it will commence the second phase of a trial challenging Texas’ redistricting maps on Aug. 11.

The first phase, which will look at claims made against political boundaries drawn in 2011 for the Texas House, will kick off July 14 and is expected to last about six days.

Redistricting maps drawn the same year for the U.S. House will be argued starting Aug. 11 and will “continue day to day until finished,” according to a court entry Thursday.

At some point in the yet-to-be determined future, there will be a phase for the 2013 Texas House and US House maps. (Recall that all claims related to the Texas Senate map have been settled, with the exception of the legal fees.) This is the Section 2 part of the fight – remember, we used interim maps for 2012, and will use them again this November. The point of this litigation is to settle one way or another the claims about discrimination in the 2011 and 2013 maps. Possible outcomes include:

1. All of the 2011 and 2013 maps are declared illegal and new maps that are presumably more favorable to Democrats get drawn, most likely for 2016 and then to be used for the remaining elections until the 2021 redistricting cycle.

2. The 2011 maps are thrown out but the 2013 versions, which the state intended to address the previously raised judicial concerns about the 2011 maps, are deemed acceptable and put into place. Note that you could have this result for one of the maps and result #1 for the other.

3. The 2011 maps are declared to be legal and are implemented as is. Again, you could have one map be this way and the other fall into either of the first two buckets.

Any of these outcomes could be affected by further challenges to the Voting Rights Act – if SCOTUS strikes down Section 2, needless to say that all bets are off – or by some miraculous and unlikely Congressional action to update the VRA. I’m no Michael Li, so I could be all wet on any or all of this, but that’s my layman’s understanding. Those of you that know better, please tell me where I’ve gone wrong.

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