After an hour and a half hearing this afternoon, the San Antonio panel elected to keep the existing interim maps in place despite urging from LULAC that use of the maps was not permitted under case precedent.
Instead, the panel asked the parties to submit proposals by December 1 for how they would propose to move forward.
Although all of the plaintiff groups were united in the view that there were additional deficiencies in the interim maps that needed to be corrected in light of the D.C. panel’s preclearance ruling on Tuesday, only LULAC was left insisting that the defects needed to be addressed before an election.
Nina Perales, counsel for the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, told the panel that she would prefer to see the issues addressed in a more deliberative way - adding that election results from November 2012 could help inform that process. Perales also told the court that she just simply didn’t see that there was enough time to accomplish all that would need to happen logistically in order to adjust the maps in time for a November election - especially with ballot printing and other hard deadlines fast approaching.
Perales also expressed concerns that the prospect of ‘jungle primaries’ in November 2012 (in which candidates of all parties run together on a single slate with the top two finishers moving on to a runoff) would lead to voter confusion and depressed turnout.
While the State of Texas argued for holding off adjustments to the maps until after a Supreme Court ruling, the panel did not address that issue today, and Jose Garza, counsel for MALC, reminded the panel that the D.C. panel’s order had not been stayed. Garza told the panel that precedent argued in favor of moving forward with crafting a remedy, notwithstanding the existence of appeals.
So, after some flurry of activity, everything seems back on track for a November election, though one observer has already quiped that, “Laws enacted by a legislature elected under an interim map are interim laws, right?”