A federal court in San Antonio will release an interim Texas Congressional map in the next couple of weeks, and it’s anybody’s guess what the plan will look like.
“Based on what happened 10 years ago when a similar process occurred, who the hell knows what they’re going to put out,” said Chris Perkins, a Texas Republican consultant who had a heavy hand in the last redistricting round.
The San Antonio court’s maps are even more important since a separate federal court in Washington, D.C., decided this week that the plan already passed into law will head to a lengthy trial.
That means the San Antonio court’s map will almost certainly be used in the 2012 elections.
The court will likely release the temporary maps by the end of next week, according to one source close to the process. They’re racing against an early primary calendar under which House candidates can begin to file at the end of November.
But for now, no one knows what the interim map will look like. Democrats are optimistic it could yield up to four new favorable House seats, but Republicans hope the courts will add only one more Democratic-tilting district.
Regardless, there are a couple of sure things: These maps will only be temporary, and the courts will give as much deference as possible to the current Congressional map while adding four new House seats.
This means Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) could be a big winner. Mapmakers dismantled Doggett’s 25th district under the new map, forcing him into a primary with state Rep. Joaquin Castro in a new, oddly shaped district that stretched to San Antonio. The courts could defer to Doggett’s original district and draw another Hispanic-majority district in another part of the state.
The districts drawn for freshman GOP Reps. Blake Farenthold and Francisco “Quico” Canseco might be in for a heavy makeover, too. The courts could secure these minority-opportunity districts by moving more Hispanic voters into them.
“The Republican plan was drawn to help them by giving them more Anglo voters. That’s likely to be undone,” said Matt Angle, a Democratic consultant and Texas redistricting expert.
A Republican source speculated the new 33rd district around Dallas may also see changes. The minority population grew massively in that city in the past decade, but Republicans did not draw any new majority-minority districts there in the map that passed earlier this year.
A Washington, D.C., court will continue its separate trial over the Texas map into the late spring or early summer. After the trial, that court could order a new map or even rule that the map passed earlier this year is law.
What’s more, the Texas Legislature could take another stab at Congressional cartography next year. That’s what happened in 2003, when then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R) spearheaded a redraw following a court-mandated map.
Virginia: GOP Appears to Take Control of State Senate
At press time Wednesday, the immediate future of Congressional redistricting in Virginia rested on 224 votes out of 45,000 cast in a single state Senate district, a margin that is not likely to change with a possible recount in the weeks ahead.
The winner of Tuesday’s election may not be known until next month, as a recount can’t be called until the state Board of Elections certifies the results on Nov. 28. The losing candidate has 10 days after that to call for a recount.
A Republican victory would split the Virginia Senate 20-20 between the two parties, giving Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) the tie-breaking vote. It would also likely clear the path for an incumbent retention plan that solidifies the GOP’s 8-3 majority in the delegation, a plan already approved in the GOP-controlled state House and supported by the entire delegation.
Under that plan, Democrats hope to still compete against Rep. Scott Rigell in the Virginia Beach-based 2nd district and against Rep. Frank Wolf in the 10th district in the outer suburbs of Washington, D.C.
If a recount pushed the Democrat to victory, the redistricting process would likely head to the courts.
Arizona: Court Blocks Mathis’ Bid to Be Reinstated
The Arizona Supreme Court blocked an effort Tuesday by the ousted chairwoman of the state’s independent redistricting commission to immediately return to the panel.
The court denied Chairwoman Colleen Mathis’ request to be temporarily reinstated until a Nov. 17 hearing, when she will request permanent reinstatement.
GOP Gov. Jan Brewer and the Republican-dominated state Senate removed Mathis last week after the redistricting panel produced a Congressional map that Republicans say favors Democrats. Mathis is a registered Independent and was the swing vote on the panel.
State law says a commissioner must have committed “substantial neglect of duty, gross misconduct in office or inability to discharge the duties of the office” in order to be removed. Both Mathis’ personal attorney and the commission’s counsel say that threshold has not been met.
Republican state Senators argue otherwise. Their list of grievances includes complaints about the committee’s transparency and its use of mapmaking software supplied by Strategic Telemetry, which worked for the Democratic presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) in 2004. The commission’s counsel and spokesman strongly dispute that the accusations are grounds for the dismissal.
“We will work with the vice chairmen to see how the commission should proceed while the Arizona Supreme Court resolves the important legal issues in dispute,” said a commission statement on Tuesday’s ruling. “In the meantime, we will continue processing the tremendous amount of input the commission received during the public comment period.”
Massachusetts: New Map Could Be Law As Soon as Next Week
The Bay State’s Legislative redistricting committee released a draft Congressional map Monday that reduced the number of seats in the delegation from 10 to nine and shored up almost all the incumbents, every one of whom is a Democrat.
The map redraw was made easier by the announcement from Rep. John Olver (D) that he will retire at the end of his term. Big winners from the draft map included Rep. Niki Tsongas (D), whose district was shored up, and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D), who retained most of his current territory.
The most vulnerable Member under the new map is Rep. John Tierney (D), whose district remained competitive and who is a top Bay State target of Republicans. The map is expected to be signed into law soon — perhaps next week — with few changes.
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