Feb. 8, 2016

Between the Lines: W.Va. Officials Petition Supreme Court on New Map

Even though the West Virginia Legislature passed a redistricting map in August with minimal drama, legal wrangling continues to halt its implementation.

Most recently, state officials requested a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court after a three-judge panel in a lower court ruled against the map passed by the Legislature last year. The panel deemed there was too much population variation among West Virginia's three districts.

What's more, the Supreme Court indicated it could take up the Mountain State's case when it asked a county commission for its response to the stay on Tuesday. Officials told local reporters they believe that's a sign the high court might grant their request for a stay as soon as this week.

Meanwhile, the Legislature went into session last week and is working on backup plans in case the Supreme Court does not side with the state in an appeal, according to TV affiliate WOWK.

Texas: Preclearance Trial Starts in District Court

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia began its trial Tuesday to determine whether it will approve the state's Congressional map.

On the first day of the preclearance trial, counsel for the state of Texas argued that GOP mapmakers did not intentionally discriminate against minority voters in their redrawn map passed last summer.

"Map drawers made a good faith effort to follow Department of Justice guidance," Adam Mortara, an attorney for Texas, argued, according to Bloomberg News. "The voter map is not retrogressive in terms of Latino voting strength."

The trial in the District Court started just eight days after the Supreme Court heard arguments over the new map in a related case. The high court will determine whether a three-judge panel overstepped its authority by drawing an interim Congressional map before the D.C. court finished its trial.

In that initial hearing on Jan. 9, several Supreme Court justices suggested the state should wait until the District of Columbia's trial is finished.

But officials are quickly running out of time before the primary, with the final arguments in the D.C. court case scheduled for Feb. 3. The state already moved its primary back once to April 3, but given the ongoing trial, it's unlikely officials will be able to keep that date.

There are four new House seats at stake in Texas, mostly because of the increase in Hispanic population over the past decade.

Texas is one of nine states that requires preclearance from the Justice Department or a federal court before implementing its maps under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Last summer, Texas opted to sidestep the Justice Department and sued for preclearance directly in federal court.

Florida: Legislative Leaders to Negotiate One Map

The GOP-controlled state Senate passed a Congressional redistricting plan Tuesday that solidifies the heavy GOP advantage in the federal delegation but leaves Republican Reps. David Rivera, Steve Southerland, Allen West and Tom Rooney vulnerable.

It also adds two new seats one likely Republican, one likely Democratic that the Sunshine State was allotted in reapportionment.

The Senate-passed map must be reconciled with whatever Congressional plan the GOP-controlled state House passes. Any final map signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Scott is almost certain to end up in court.

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