Voice of Texas Voters Fades With Long Redistricting Litigation
Now the state is waiting to hear if the Supreme Court will rule on the maps by March 3, which will allow voters to cast their ballots as early as May 29th.
The state’s battle over drawing election districts started last summer when the legislature redrew lines for the Republican Party. The following fall, Latino advocates took the new maps to court in San Antonio claiming it violated the Voting Rights Act.
"I think everyone's pretty tired of the case," said Dallas attorney Michael Li. "To those who are following the story, it almost feels like the movie Groundhog's Day where we keep reliving the same things over and over again."
The Latino advocates used the 2010 Census to argue that Latinos and African-American populations caused the most growth in Texas and therefore the state should draw new districts in their favor.
The Supreme Court took the case, and there are three main electoral maps that need to be set in place for the the primary to happen.
"Texas is in a mess," said Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune executive editor and columnist. "It's partly a logistical mess and redistricting is always contentious, there's a lot at stake, both personally and politically for everybody and they fight like hell."
However, it was a surprise that the Supreme Court's even decided to take the case, Li said.
"I mean you have to try and go to the Supreme Court for political optics, you know look like you're fighting everything you can, but you'd be safe in assuming they'd deny the stay," said Li. "So that really threw everything in turmoil."
If the redistricting maps are not decided by March 3rd, Texas will most likely be forced to push its primary even later to June 26th.
Texas has 155 delegates, giving them the largest number second to California, which also faces a late primary date of June 5th. For states with a high number of delegates, the later date means they won't have the same power in this year's GOP primary race.
"The Republican voters, especially this year, would like to have a voice in the presidential race. The other stuff is just inconvenience," said Ramsey. "The thing of consequence is that race."
In places like Travis County, where the University of Texas is located, a June primary would fall after the end of the school term. The student vote occupies a huge percentage in Travis, said Li.
The issue of turnout is a big consideration in the effects of the redistricting case.
"There's been a lot of dismay about the whole process mainly because, while we've had a lot of redistricting litigation in Texas for forty years, this is the first time that it has effected everything because of the whole primary delay," said Li. "Plus, this year you happen to have a contestant Republican primary for president so there are a lot of people who want to have a voice in that."
Reach reporter Lauren Foliart here.