Another Delay In Texas Primary Debated During Supreme Court Hearing | KERA News

Another Delay In Texas Primary Debated During Supreme Court Hearing

Jan 10, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court may be considering instructions that would delay Texas primary elections again. KERA’s Shelley Kofler reports Justices asked about a delay yesterday when they heard arguments over Texas’ election maps.

 The battle over Texas election maps ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court after minority groups and Democrats sued the state. They accused Republicans in the Texas legislature of creating election districts that ignore the explosive growth of Hispanics and minorities, and thereby violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

Lawyers with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus urged Justices to sanction the use of an alternative map drawn by federal judges in San Antonio. Nina Perales is part of the plaintiff’s legal team.

Perales: Texas gained four new congressional seats because of Latino population growth. But the redistricting plans enacted by Texas created no new opportunities for Latino voters in the state. Its leadership has slammed the door in our face.

On the other side of the debate was Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott leading a team that urged Justices to approve the legislature’s maps. Abbott claims the Republicans who drew them didn’t discriminate. Abbott says Texas is electing more Hispanic Republicans but opponents are only interested in electing Hispanics who are Democrats.

Abbott: What we are seeing in this case today is an attempt by the plaintiffs to use the Voting Rights Act for partisan political purposes. You see the plaintiffs suing the State of Texas and seeking maps that will draw out of office elected Hispanic Republicans.

As Justices consider whether to use one of the maps already drawn or order changes they questioned attorneys about the possibility of delaying Texas’ primary until June while new election boundaries are settled.

Disputes over the maps have already delayed the usual March primary until April. Outside the Supreme Court Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a Houston Democrat, said candidates are already confused about where to campaign and voters aren’t sure who is running.

Lee: When you delay an election you’re talking about constables, and county commissioners, and state representatives and any number of individuals who are on the ballots. So I think the question is how do we avoid the negative impact on the voting public?

The Supreme Court is expected to quickly decide which map to use but that won’t completely settle the matter. A trial over whether the legislature’s map disenfranchises minority voters is set for later this month in a federal court in Washington.