Answering the Redistricting Questions

The answers are mostly, no, no and May 29

LULAC general counsel Luis Vera on attempts to slice up CD25:
LULAC general counsel Luis Vera on attempts to slice up CD25: "You cannot totally destroy communities of interest to get Congressman Doggett."

So after the latest two days of judicial hearings in San Antonio, the primary season is getting a little more settled: There is now a new potential date, and a handshake deal on a Senate map. After that, the news is not so good.

Senate: Yes, we have a map – well, a compromise map that still needs agreeing to by the court, but it's better than nothing. The big news is that the state folded on Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and have reinstated the same lines she won under in 2008. That's a big bitter pill for them to swallow, because there was little secret of the fact that the GOP viewed her as the prime target for removal. However, the redrawing only hits Tarrant County, so the Travis County four-way split remain unchanged.

House: The final report from yesterday's hearings is that the court was starting to get a little testy that the parties could not even agree on how many minority-majority and coalition districts they were talking about (50, 51 or, as Judge Orlando Garcia suggested, more than 52.) The court is now asking all parties to prioritize the districts that are most contentious.

Congress: The hold-up remains Congressional District 25, as currently held by Travis County's own US Rep. Lloyd Doggett. The state has said this is the pivotal district required to fulfill the rest of their plan, but LULAC general counsel Luis Vera hit the nail on the head when he told Attorney General Greg Abbott's people, "You cannot totally destroy communities of interest to get Congressman Doggett." The Department of Justice says CD25 is not a protected district, but the plaintiffs argue that it is protected under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as a crossover district (one in which minority voters account for less than 50% of the population but, with the support of the majority population, get their choice of representative.) Judge Jerry Smith posited that Hispanic voters in Travis County would be better served by the gerrymandering that creates CD-35, the district that draws Doggett into a primary with Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio. Renea Hicks, who represents Travis County and the city of Austin at the hearings, told Smith that Hispanic voters in CD-25 have chosen the candidate 75% of the time, and regularly outweighed the Anglo majority.

And now the big one:

Primary Date: With April 17 now looking as dead as the original March 6 date, Smith told the parties that they probably should be looking at May 29 at the earliest. Now that's not set in stone, but it looks the most likely date. That was originally planned for the beginning of early voting in the re-scheduled primary run-off (back when the primary was April 3) but creates an interesting new problem for local election officers who will also have local limited elections (like the Austin council race) on May 12.

The issue is how long it takes to organize an election. In between drawing precinct maps, printing and mailing ballots, procuring ballot boxes et al, the state estimates that it takes 77 days to put all the pieces together. In court, local officials were saying it was closer to 88 days. However, this all creates big problems for the political conventions, and Republican Party of Texas chair Steve Munisteri is already saying that they may have to ask the courts for a ruling that will allow them to change the way the parties pick presidential delegates.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Redistricting
If You Liked Rick Perry, You'll Love Greg Abbott
If You Liked Rick Perry, You'll Love Greg Abbott
Attorney general confirms governorship shot

Richard Whittaker, July 15, 2013

Special Session Redistricting Hearings Commence
Special Session Redistricting Hearings Commence
Senate and House committees taking testimony for next three days

Richard Whittaker, May 30, 2013

More Gerrymandering
Texas' Big, Bad Week for Voter Suppression and Gerrymandering
Texas' Big, Bad Week for Voter Suppression and Gerrymandering
Within two days, courts reject second election map, voter ID bill

Richard Whittaker, Aug. 25, 2017

Court: Texas House Districts Unlawful, Unconstitutional
Court: Texas House Districts Unlawful, Unconstitutional
Panel of judges rules 2-1 against drawing of 2011 maps

Richard Whittaker, April 20, 2017

More by Richard Whittaker
Fantastic Fest Review: <i>Final Cut</i>
Final Cut
French remake of beloved Japanese movie-making comedy adds a little

Sept. 30, 2022

The Greatest Kaiju Return to Guzu With Strange Beasts VII
The Greatest Kaiju Return to Guzu With Strange Beasts VII
Wall-to-wall Godzilla in the new show, opening tonight

Sept. 30, 2022


Redistricting, Gerrymandering, 2012 Primaries, LULAC, Luis Vera, Greg Abbott, Judge Jerry Smith, Judge Orlando Garcia, Renea Hicks

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle