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Closing arguments heard in Texas redistricting case, decision may be delayed

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September 15, 2011

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By Jimmy Ardis

SAN ANTONIO, Texas: The federal three-judge panel over Texas's consolidated redistricting case began hearing closing arguments from plaintiffs today. The plaintiffs include Democratic Texas lawmakers and Latino advocacy groups who claim the redistricting maps passed by the Texas State Legislature violate minority voting rights. The state of Texas (the defendants) asked for a one-day delay so they may better prepare and deliver their closing arguments tomorrow.[1]

Democratic Representative Marc Veasey's lawyer, Gerry Hebert, pulled no punches stating “Let's not pretend the state didn't know the racial implications of what they were doing. They knew it at every click of the mouse in drawing the map.”[1] Attorneys for the Mexican American Legislative caucus and the Latino Redistricting Task Force also gave closing arguments.

The state is set to deliver its closing tomorrow. After the close of the trial today a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Abbott said in an email “The state is confident that the new legislative and congressional maps comply with both the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.”[2] A spokeswoman for Governor Rick Perry said today at the start of the trial “The legislature determined and approved the map, and the governor signed it and believes it went through a fair process."[2]

While the final closing arguments will be heard tomorrow, participants and watchers of the trial will likely have to wait weeks to hear a decision. The reason for the delay is judges in the case are awaiting the outcome of another Texas federal redistricting case simultaneously occurring in DC. Texas submitted its plans to a DC federal panel in hopes of obtaining Voting Rights Act clearance. A Dallas lawyer close to the redistricting case said today "“The San Antonio court will hold back and wait until the D.C. court decides these are legally enforceable maps or not. If the D.C. court decides they are legal, the San Antonio court will then rule on the racial gerrymandering claims. If the D.C. court finds the new maps violate the Voting Rights Act, the issue will come back to San Antonio, and the judges here will draw new maps.”[2] Regardless of when the decision is delivered, Texas's redistricting plans are likely to be tangled in further litigation for the foreseeable future.

See also