The big question following today’s Texas redistricting opinion is ‘what happens now?’
At the moment, that’s a bit unclear. Waiting for the redistricting opinion had become a bit like waiting for Godot - so much so that many folks had stopped thinking about redistricting. Most people, in fact, were expecting a ruling on Texas’ voter ID law to come first. And with a 154 pages of opinion and dissent, folks are still digesting the opinion and looking at options.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has taken the position that the opinion will not affect the November election, which he says will proceed on the interim maps put into place back in February.
On the other hand, it is certainly possible to see a move to adjust those interim maps in the San Antonio court. For example, CD-23 arguably could be restored to its full benchmark configuration fairly easily. Similar arguments might also be made with respect to HD 117 and 149, which are wholly contained in their respective counties (to the extent redistricting plaintiffs think that not enough changes were made to those districts in the interim maps).
Other changes would seem harder. But with control of Congress potentially on the line, lots of people are going to be looking at the opinion closely over the next few days.
Changes for this year - at least conceptually - are not out of the question. In 1996, for example, the three-judge panel ordered jungle primaries in a number of congressional districts which were held on the date of the November election, with a runoff a month later.
As for an appeal, Attorney General Abbott has already said that he will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could set the case for oral argument as early as this fall and likely would raise issues about the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Stay tuned. Things are getting interesting again.