Gerrymandered confusion

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott fired another salvo on Monday in the ongoing duel between Texas legislators and federal judges over the set of newly drawn political district maps. The redistricting process, which generally occurs every 10 years to reflect population changes reported by the decennial U.S. census, is often contentious and always politically charged. The maps drawn by the Texas Legislature this spring have been under review by the U.S. Department of Justice because there is doubt that they conform to the terms of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which seeks to protect minority voters against political gerrymandering. In the meantime and suspecting that the maps will be declared illegal by the Justice Department panel, a panel of federal judges in San Antonio recently proposed a new, fairer set of maps for use in the now-underway election cycle.

Filing for candidates began Monday, and with the Legislature’s maps in legal limbo, the judges provided a legal alternative to avoid delaying the election cycle while the Justice Department deliberates. But, dissatisfied with the judges’ proposals, Abbott has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the elections pending a legal resolution of the issue. He claims that Texas’ primary elections could be postponed to as late as May 22.

This obvious political move only adds more confusion to a process which is already mind-boggling. That the legality of the maps is even in question suggests the maps’ clear pro-Republican bias, and looking at the maps removes all doubt. Voter turnout in primary elections is already abysmal, and groups working to educate voters about the process, including many student groups of all political persuasions, should not have to face the additional challenge of trying to motivate people to vote on a day that is in danger of becoming a moving target.