Today is a court-set deadline: Three federal judges in San Antonio told the redistricting parties that they needed to reach an agreement by this afternoon to preserve any hope of holding political primaries on April 3. Those primaries, already delayed from March 6, could be pushed back to May or June if maps aren't in place in time to stage the elections.
Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he had reached agreement on most parts of the maps with most of the parties involved. Notably absent from the deal are the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the NAACP, the so-called Davis plaintiffs, and the Texas Democratic Party, who sued over the Senate district maps in Tarrant County.
In a conference call on the proposal, Abbott says he's confident that the state will have a primary in April. "The plan that is now posted -- that will not be objected to by a large number of parties to this lawsuit -- addresses all of the Section 5 and Section 2 objections [under the federal Voting Rights Act]," he said.
Abbott said the proposal will allow the court to put the maps in place in time to cause only a small delay instead of a big one.
"I can't necessarily say that April 3 will be the date... but elections could proceed, hopefully, on April 17," he said.
Here's the statement issued by Attorney General Greg Abbott:
"The proposed maps minimize changes to the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature and, as the U. S. Supreme Court required, makes changes only where necessary. The Texas Attorney General's Office has worked with a wide range of interest groups to incorporate reasonable requests from all parties to the extent possible without compromising the will of the Texas Legislature.
"Even though these proposed interim maps aren't fully supported by all interest groups, modifications have been incorporated based on requests made by all parties. Today's maps should allow the court to finalize the interim redistricting maps in time to have elections in April," Attorney General Abbott said.
The proposed House and Congressional interim redistricting maps are the result of an agreement between the State of Texas and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force -- which includes Texas LULAC, MALDEF, GI Forum, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Domingo Garcia, The Mexican American Bar Association of Texas, and La Fe Policy Research and Education Center. The proposed Congressional interim redistricting map is also supported by Congressman Henry Cuellar.
Although the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), the Black Legislative Caucus and the NAACP have not agreed to support the proposed maps, those maps include modifications that address some of the primary concerns those plaintiffs raised during negotiations with the State. The proposed maps also reflect consensus among the State leadership -- including Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Speaker Joe Straus.
State Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, says she's not in any deal:
There is no agreement on a Senate map. Rather than meet the concerns of Texas voters, the Texas Attorney General continues to advance the same effort to dilute minority voting strength as we saw attempted in the 82nd Legislative Session. This is not a good faith effort.
In his conference call, Abbott was asked about objections from U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis. He dismissed them, saying the congressman had been trying to get a district that included the Dallas Cowboys' stadium; the attorney general said he didn't think that was a big concern for the judges, and didn't involve any of the legal issues he and others are trying to resolve.
TDP spokesperson Rebecca Acua released the following statement in response to the redistricting maps released by General Abbott:
"We're greatly disappointed the Attorney General did not deal in good faith with all parties involved.
For the Texas Democratic Party, any maps that do not have the consent of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus, and other plaintiffs are nonstarters.
The Attorney General is clearly terrified that the DC court will find that the state's maps are discriminatory in both effect and intent. Until there's a legitimate agreement among the parties, we support the court continuing to do its work."
Here's the statement from MALC Chairman Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio:
MALC worked in good faith with General Abbott in hopes of arriving at a compromise that reflected the changing diversity of our state in a manner acceptable to all parties. Unfortunately negotiations stalled when it became apparent some parties in these discussions had a narrow and at times unrealistic view of the evidence presented at trial. The maps proposed by the Attorney General today are a beginning point, not an end.
MALC has maintained from day one that minority rights should not be subordinated in order to facilitate political expediency. We have presented a fair plan that recognizes the growth of the Latino and African American community while at the same time eliminating discriminatory tactics used by the State to disenfranchise the minority community.
As we have said before, MALC and the redistricting plaintiffs have presented a compelling case at trial in both San Antonio and in Washington, D.C. We will not compromise our principles for the sake of expediency and will not be forced into a resolution that fails to recognize the fundamental fact that Texas' growth is minority growth. We are confident that the evidence presented at trial demonstrates that Texas' maps violate both Section 5 and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
The Attorney General presents an illusion of an inclusive map; the reality is that it falls short of recognizing minority growth in Texas. For instance in CD 23, the compromise district clearly performs worse than it had in the benchmark map. No one needs to be reminded that the candidate of choice of the minority community failed to win election in the benchmark map in 2010. MALC could not accept a CD 23 that is worse off than it was in the benchmark map, considering that reality. While all the parties support a primary as soon as possible, we want to ensure that Texans have fair and legal redistricting maps. MALC is encouraged that with the issuance of these maps the Attorney General has made it clear that he accepts the growing reality that the maps adopted by the state legislature for the state house, state senate, and United States Congress were constitutionally-flawed and require immediate remedial action."
The members of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force have signed off on the state's proposal, saying it gives them almost all of what they were after when they filed suit over redistricting.
In particular, they said the proposal reflects the growth in the state's minority populations, particularly in the congressional plans that add four new seats to the state's 32-member delegation.
Nina Perales, director of litigation for MALDEF, said all but one of several changes sought by that group are included in the proposal, and she said her group would be willing to leave these maps in place through 2020 -- not just through the next election.
She said the proposal gives the court an opportunity to hold April 3 primary elections. The court has set hearings for next week -- it could move those