New Texas district map to be used for 2012 elections

Mary Ellen Knewtson

The United States Supreme Court approved a temporary map for Texas congressional districts Wednesday after ruling the original map drawn by the Texas Legislature unfairly grouped minority populations to minimize their influence.

A lower federal court drew the new map, which will only be used for the 2012 elections. The Legislature draws new district maps every 10 years based on census data, and Texas added four new seats in Congress after the 2010 census. Chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said the federal court’s interim map is not perfect, but the time before the Nov. 6 election does not allow for another redrawing.

“While we’re not entirely comfortable with the interim map because we know that the map is going to get better for minorities, we have to recognize that the election cycle is just around the corner,” Fischer said.

He said stalling preparations for the election while congressional districts are redrawn again would disenfranchise voters. It was important to make sure county officials have time to get ballots out, Fischer said. The League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino rights group, asked the Supreme Court to review the interim map. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus did not submit an official position on the Supreme Court case, Fischer said. He said the caucus decided it would be more prudent to work with the federal court to produce a remedy map after November.

Fischer said congressional district 25, in southern Travis County, was one of the districts the Supreme Court originally identified as discriminatory. He said he hopes this district will be redrawn on the map that will be adopted and used after the 2012 elections.

Congressman Lloyd Doggett, the Democratic incumbent for district 25, said he is pleased the Supreme Court did not further disrupt the election process in Texas.

“The Supreme Court has already interfered in our elections once too often this year,” Doggett said. “The only appeal that I personally am making is to the voters along the I-35 corridor.”

Doggett, a former UT student body president, said he encourages his fellow Longhorns to vote.

Chris Elam, a Republican Party of Texas spokesperson, said the state would have been plunged into chaos if the Supreme Court had postponed the election to allow more time to redraw the map. Elam said the efforts from Democrats and left-leaning organizations to appeal congressional maps has only caused confusion for voters.

“They feel that these maps are discriminatory, and we feel that they are not,” Elam said. “We’re grateful that the elections can move forward as planned and reject the argument that these elections would have needed to be delayed.”