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Texas asks Supreme Court to block redistricting

Texas asks Supreme Court to block redistricting
Monday, November 28, 2011 - 5:46pm

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas' attorney general asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday to block a federal court from implementing temporary, new political maps as candidates for elected offices in Texas started filing for election.

Some candidates already changed their plans — and a handful announced retirements — after a federal court in San Antonio shook things up last week by drawing new political maps for the state to use while its redistricting fight continues. A stay issued by the nation's highest court could cause more upheaval and possibly result in the March 6 primary being delayed until May.

Lawmakers redraw districts every 10 years to reflect changes in population reported by the census. Texas' Republican-controlled Legislature drew up new maps earlier this year, but minority groups sued in federal court in San Antonio, claiming the plan didn't reflect the growth in the state's Hispanic and black population.

The court has not yet ruled, but it issued new maps that could be used in the meantime that would likely lead to greater minority representation and give Democrats a chance to add as many as a dozen seats in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, a federal court in Washington has refused to approve the Legislature's redistricting plan without a trial, agreeing with the Justice Department that there was sufficient evidence to question whether it hurt minority representation. Texas, along with other states with a history of racial discrimination, can't implement its redistricting plan or other changes to voting practices without federal approval under the Voting Rights Act.

But Attorney General Greg Abbott's office has argued the legislative maps should be implemented while the Washington court's ruling is pending.

"Today's appeal emphasizes that no court has, at any time, found anything unlawful about the redistricting maps passed by the Texas Legislature," Abbott said in a statement. "It is judicial activism at its worst for judges to draw redistricting maps of their own choosing despite no finding of wrongdoing by the state of Texas."

Justice Antonin Scalia, acting for the Supreme Court, has called for responses to Abbott's arguments from challengers by 4 p.m. Thursday.

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