This afternoon, the three-judge San Antonio panel asked parties in the Texas redistricting case for guidance on what “additional work in this case may be helpful to prepare for events that may follow later this year” after the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby Co v. Holder.
The request comes two and a half months after the parties’ last submissions.
In its order, the court told parties what has been widely assumed - namely that the panel would “not issue any opinion, if at all, under after the Supreme Court resolves the Section 5 matters.”
However, the court also showed concern for the upcoming Texas election schedule, asking the parties for their opinions on how “the Court would need to proceed under” various alternative section 5 scenarios.
This included asking the parties for ”a realistic time estimate on how long it would take for the Court to complete its task while still leaving sufficient time for local election officials to implement any necessary changes prior to the 2014 election cycle, assuming no postponement of statutory deadlines.”
Among the lengthy list of questions asked by the court are:
- What further steps would need to take place if section 5 is found to be unconstitutional?
- If section 5 is upheld but the Texas redistricting case is pending on appeal, would the “Court would be required to issue interim maps for the 2014 elections?”
- If so, what map would the court use as the benchmark in drawing new interim maps?
- What would happen if the Supreme Court remanded the preclearance case to the D.C. panel for further proceedings?
- Under what circumstances would section 2 issues and constitutional claims have to be decided?
- What additional evidence would be needed to decide those claims? And to the extent could the court rely on findings in the preclearance decision of the D.C. court?
The court asked that the parties’ advisories be filed by March 15, 2013, with any optional responses to other parties’ advisories to be filed by March 25. The order said the panel would decide whether to hold a status conference after reviewing the parties’ submissions.
A copy of the court’s order can be found here.