Texas Governor Rick Perry asked the U.S. Supreme Court to delay the state’s Congressional primary elections until a dispute over the composition of new electoral districts is resolved.
Perry previously asked the high court to block the use of judicially created election maps in Texas’s 2012 legislative races after a panel of lower-court judges in San Antonio refused his request. Today, Perry added the state’s races for the U.S. House of Representatives to his Supreme Court bid for emergency stay.
The San Antonio court that created interim election maps “went out of its way to give no weight whatsoever to the duly-enacted election map enacted by the Texas Legislature,” Paul Clement, the state’s appellate attorney, said in Texas’s Supreme Court filing yesterday.
“Legal, delayed elections are preferable to legally flawed, timely elections,” Clement said. Candidates began registering for Texas’s March 6 party primaries yesterday, based on the court-drawn maps.
Texas is fighting to implement new voter boundaries created this year by the Republican-controlled Legislature and approved by Perry after the state gained four new congressional seats on population growth. Texas added nearly 4.3 million new residents since 2000, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Roughly 65 percent of the new Texans are Hispanics.
Latino voting rights activists and the U.S. Justice Department claim state lawmakers created racially gerrymandered districts to prevent the election of Hispanics, who more often vote for Democrats.
Texas Republicans countered that while lawmakers’ maps may be biased in favor of the state’s Republican majority, they don’t discriminate against Hispanics. State lawyers told the San Antonio judges that Latinos and African-Americans are increasingly being elected in Texas as Republicans.
Separate three-judge panels have held hearings in Washington and San Antonio on related challenges to Texas’s electoral maps. Latino activists and congressmen whose jobs were threatened by the Legislature’s maps sued Perry in San Antonio federal court in August, seeking to block the maps.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott sued the U.S. Justice Department in federal court in Washington seeking pre-clearance of the election maps, a step required of all states with a history of voting rights violations. The Washington court on Nov. 8 refused to allow the Perry-approved maps to be used in next year’s elections, saying the court needed time to explore allegations that they were designed to keep Latinos out of office.
To avoid a delay in the state’s election cycle, the San Antonio judges created interim maps they said more fairly reflected the distribution of the state’s increased population. They proposed interim congressional boundaries Nov. 23, a week after they submitted the interim state legislative districts.
Perry asked the San Antonio judges last week and yesterday to delay Texas’s primary elections to allow time for Supreme Court review of the court-drawn boundaries. The judges refused in a series of 2-to-1 rulings, in which a dissenting judge said state primaries should be delayed to permit high court review of the panel’s work.
The Texas case is Perez v. Perry, 5:11-cv-00360, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio). The Washington case is Texas v. U.S., 1:11-cv-1303, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington). The appeal is Perry v Perez, 11A520, U.S. Supreme Court.