Court will draw Texas map in boon to Democrats

at 02:06 PM ET, 11/08/2011

In a boost to Democrats’ chances of retaking the House next year, federal judges in Texas will draw a map for the state’s 2012 congressional races.

A Washington, D.C., federal court on Tuesday declined to sign off on redistricting plan spearheaded by the state Republican Party. The D.C. court ruled that the Republican line-drawers “used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice.”

The decision means the issue is headed for a lengthy court battle, which, in turn, means the map won’t be ready in time for the 2012 election. Because of this, the DC court tasked a panel of federal judges in San Antonio to draw an interim 2012 map — which could lead to significant Democratic gains — by the end of the month.

“This most likely means three additional Democratic seats in Texas,” said former congressman Martin Frost (D), a victim of the GOP’s last redistricting map. “The GOP overreached one time too often in Texas.”

Republicans had drafted a map on which they would likely win three of the four new seats the state is gaining in reapportionment — despite already having a 23-to-9 edge in the state’s congressional delegation and much of the state’s growth over the last decade occurring among minority communities.

Democrats say a court-drawn map could net them an extra two or three seats in Congress, bringing their gains to three or four seats and reducing GOP gains to one or zero seats. Republicans expect the new map to include one new GOP seat and three new Democratic ones.

Democrats nationally need to win 25 seats to retake the majority.

Redistricting plans in many southern states are required to get “preclearance,” usually from the Justice Department, to verify that the state abided by sections of the Voting Rights Act that aim to protect minority groups.

Texas tried an alternative, though, seeking preclearance in the courts and hoping for a better result. Instead of going to a Justice Department serving under a Democratic president, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) filed in D.C. court, where the Justice Department decided to fight against the Texas map.

Texas Republicans also ran into trouble in 2006 when their mid-decade redistricting map was partially struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Part of the map had to be redrawn, and Democrats won a seat in that part of the state later that year.

Republicans, presuming they are still in the majority in Texas after the 2012 election, could draw a new map for 2014.

 
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