Abbott, who declined an interview through his spokeswoman, has argued the San Antonio federal court should wait for Supreme Court action next year before it rules. In his brief, Abbott argued the high court’s decision on Section 5 will affect the federal approval process for the map.
Democrats and minority groups asked the court to rule sooner. Texas lawmakers have only one opportunity to redraw a congressional map during their biennial session ending this spring.
113th Congress House Delegation: 10 Democrats, 17 Republicans
The Sunshine State picked up two seats because of population increases and Republican-controlled redistricting 2012. But it is ripe for changes to its map pending litigation, thanks to a recently passed anti-gerrymandering law.
In 2010, Florida voters approved a “Fair Districts” amendment to the state constitution that intended to outlaw gerrymandering.
Democrats sued to redraw the map based on this new law, and the litigation continues to make its way through the Florida courts.
If courts redraw the map this cycle, Democrats see an opportunity to pick up one to three additional seats under new lines. Republicans are less optimistic the court will take over the redistricting process.
It’s anyone’s guess whether Florida courts will have an appetite to redraw the map or would ask the GOP-controlled Legislature to try again with its own redraw. There’s no legal precedent for this in Florida given the new law.
There could be more mapmaking to come in additional states in the rare process known as “re-redistricting.”
State legislators can redraw the districts mid-decade as long as the state constitution does not prohibit it. In the past decade, for example, Texas and Georgia legislators redrew their congressional maps in 2003 and 2005, respectively.
“There just aren’t a lot of regulations about when states can decide to redraw the lines if they wish,” Levitt said. “There are an awful lot of states where it’s theoretically possible.”
What’s more, the Supreme Court is scheduled to consider a case that deals directly with the constitutionality of Section 5: Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder.
The court could choose to combine the Shelby case with Abbott’s appeal — although attorneys say that’s less likely. Still, if the court strikes down Section 5, state lawmakers could redraw maps in states previously covered by the law: Alabama, Georgia, Arizona, South Carolina and Texas, to name a few.
But if that’s the case, Levitt warns not to expect wholesale redraws in some states. There are other parts of the Voting Rights Act, for example Section 2, that prohibit voter discrimination.
“Section 5 is a powerful medicine, but it’s not the only dose,” Levitt added.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.