Task Force to Abbott: Don't Mess With Texas

Minority and voter representation advocates deplore AG's stalling

MALDEF attorney Luis Figueroa:
MALDEF attorney Luis Figueroa: "Just as the NBA has decided to get the players back to playing the game, the AG needs to allow us to get back to our election season." (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

The League of Women Voters, MALDEF and the NAACP have a very simple message for Attorney General Greg Abbott: Quit trying to delay the 2012 elections.

After a three-judge federal panel approved new interim House, Senate and Congressional maps for the 2012 election, the AG has thrown a real Hail Mary, asking the Supreme Court of the United States to throw those maps out and go with the gerrymander that lawmakers shoved through last session.

That is not sitting well with the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, which gathered on Monday to counter Abbott's proposal. MALDEF attorney Luis Figueroa, who represents the task force in the ongoing law suits, explained the current situation: Since litigation continues in both DC and San Antonio, the maps represent "a short term resolution so that we can move forward with elections."

However, Abbott has asked Justice Antonin Scalia to throw out all three interim maps. In his filing about the House seats, he called the new map "entirely a judicial creation with no regard for the lines drawn through the political process." Well, duh, one supposes, but as Mexican American Legislative Caucus chair Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, rebutted, nearly half of all seats remain exactly the same as they were drawn under the 2011 GOP gerrymander. Figueroa said, "I think it's important to note that the attorney general never offered an alternative map in any of the litigation. They only offered the state map, and the map that they asked for was illegal."

SCOTUS has given all parties until Dec. 1 to submit their filings. The only problem with that is that filing for the 2012 primary elections began on Nov. 28. League of Women Voters of Texas advocacy vice-president Anita Privett argued that Abbott's latest ploy is just another assault on the democratic process. The old maps were one way: Now the attempt to overturn the maps could cut deep into primary filing season. She said, "Election day is March 6th, with early voting scheduled to begin on February 21st." If Abbott gets his way, then that could derail that schedule. Not only do candidates need to know where they are running, but election officials need to register voters, produce and mail voter registration cards and mail-in ballots, hire election staff, and obtain and program machinery. "As currently scheduled," she said, "there are only 12 weeks for all of this activity to happen. [The] attorney general's request for a Supreme Court stay would effectively delay the primary elections."

Not that the court's maps are perfect. Task force co-chair Lydia Camarillo noted that, while she was happy with the redrawn House, the Congressional maps still under-represent Latino population growth. She said, "We all know that 65% of the growth of 4.3 million people compared to the last ten years is a result of growth in the Hispanic community." However, the interim Congressional map did not add the three new minority-majority seats the task force sought. However, as NAACP legislative liaison Yannis Banks (reading a statement from state chair Gary Bledsoe) noted, the maps approved by the courts "do not reflect the political overreach of the legislature, but empower geographically connected communities to elect representatives who will address their community problems." Summing up the situation bluntly, he said, "The courts did what they had to do, what the state failed to do."

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Election 2012, 2012 Primaries, Attorney General, Greg Abbott, MALDEF, NAACP, Mexican American Legislative Caucus, Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force

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