Friday, December 9, 2011

March primaries delayed until May – Supreme Court

Judges' maps thrown out pending court review

Party primaries scheduled for March will almost certainly be delayed until May, following an order by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court issued an order halting further filing for the March primaries due to a finding that judge-drawn legislative and congressional maps released late last month are improper.

Federal judges in San Antonio re-drew the Legislature's redistricting maps when they found they discriminated against Hispanic voters after a coalition of Hispanic civil rights groups filed suit in a federal court in San Antonio.

High court justices will hear arguments in the matter on January 9.

Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the ruling to the high court as part of the state's efforts to protect the Legislature's right to reapportion the voting districts under the provisions of the U.S. Constitution.

Like other southern states, Texas must first gain approval of the Justice Department each 10 years when legislative districts and Congressional boundaries are redrawn based on the census because the state has previously been found in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"We understand the need for speed for Texas voters as well as those who wish to run for office and will work to resolve this matter as quickly as possible," Abbott said in a statement.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the court's decision shows the federal judges in San Antonio "overreached and displayed judicial activism inconsistent with federal law and contrary to the intent of the Legislature."

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, the leader of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus, which participated in the San Antonio lawsuit, said it was "deeply concerned" about the potential disruption of the 2012 election schedule.

"Our resolve remains stronger than ever and our commitment to minority voting rights unwavering," he said in a statement. "If there ever was a textbook case of Voting Rights Act violations, this is it. We look forward to making our case before the United States Supreme Court."

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