The Austin Chronicle

Not a Deadline

RECEIVED Fri., Aug. 2, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Regarding “Redistricting Commission Moves On … With All Deliberate Speed,” [News, Aug. 2]: the Chronicle story is inaccurate in at least two ways. First, it incorrectly suggests that the U.S. attorney general's action under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act before the three-judge court in San Antonio could affect the Austin redistricting commission's actions. The U.S. attorney general’s action is aimed only at state legislative acts. He is not requesting a ruling that would engulf the political subdivisions in Texas. Section 3 has been used only nine times since 1965. The Supreme Court has never decided a case under Section 3. It is doubtful that the issue of preclearance under Section 3 even for the state will be resolved anytime that affects the drawing of Austin districts.
    You also are mistaken that the commission must finish its work by December 1, 2013. When I drafted this provision in 2011, I used the date of December 1 just to assure that the new districts were finalized in ample time before the May elections. When it appeared that the election date might be moved, the following wording was added to Section 3(b) of Proposition 3: "If the date of the city election is moved, then the dates in this article shall be adjusted to ensure the commission has sufficient time to draw the lines prior to the election date." The city attorney has correctly said that the December 1 date is not set in stone and that the real dates that matter are those in 2014 that mark the election process itself (e.g. date for filing; date for soliciting contributions).
    The commission has made clear that it is planning to meet the December 1 date if possible, but it is also clear that, contrary to your story, the commission is not bound legally to finish its work by the December 1 date.
Steve Bickerstaff

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