Harris County Redistricting Heads to Court–UPDATED

Kuff had a post yesterday about Harris County Commissioners Court attempting to mediate with Latino activist plaintiffs regarding an interim map for the 2012 elections. Indeed, it was in the Sunday morning news, along with news that the County Commissioner’s Court would be meeting on Monday to discuss options.

Today, the Chron reported that mediation did not effect an interim map and the parties were headed to court–and only to work on the interim map; not on arguments for or against the original maps. Obviously, with the 2012 primaries looming, there is a bit of uneasiness as the political parties must deal with candidate filing deadlines, residency requirements, and the overall prep for the primary. Equally important is the fact that precinct boundaries must be drawn, as well.

It is safe to say there is cautious optimism with the outcome of at least the interim map.

Dunn said the map could be drawn to add black voters to Precinct 1 and Latino voters to Precinct 2.

“The judge has made clear that any interim map she might adopt cannot be retrogressive to African-Americans or Latinos and it has to fairly distribute the population in the county,” Dunn said.

The County’s media folks were working overtime in putting it out there that they were willing to mediate and negotiate this weekend, and Pct. 2’s Jack Morman wasted no time in playing his own brand of spin:

“After the mediation Thursday it just seems like the other side is almost not negotiating in good faith, like anything they propose they know would be unacceptable” to the county, Morman said Monday.

Bottom line, mediation is where both sides come together and put it all out there. There’s little doubt that a bone of contention on the Latino activist side is the huge swath of Northeast Harris County (Atascocita) that is proposed to be a part of Precinct 2–more than likely the source of retrogression. Did the county offer to cut that out of the maps? Not likely, since their game appears to be incumbent protection.

Meanwhile, we await a decision from the Department of Justice to see if the proposed map even passes muster and the Voting Rights Act.

The U.S. Department of Justice also is reviewing the county’s adopted map and is expected to rule on whether it conforms to the Voting Rights Act by mid-December.

Given the fact that Texas Republican-created maps have been ruled improper lately, I’m hoping the DOJ continues that trend so that we may correct the improprieties.

Stay connected as decisions, maps and opinions will be flying about in the next days and weeks.

UPDATE 11-15 @ 9:25PM :  Testimony in case is complete!

Interesting

Assistant county attorney Doug Ray said Gilmore will hire demographer and redistricting consultant Jerry Wood (who assisted the City of Houston with its redistricting plan earlier this year) to help her draw the map.

Francisco Pedraza, professor of political science at Texas A&M University, and local political consultant Robert Jara testified for the plaintiffs (who are led by Houston City councilmen James Rodriguez and Ed Gonzalez and represented by Chad Dunn, general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party).

University of Houston political science professor Richard Murray (who helped the county draft its plan) and Ray testified on Harris County’s behalf.

Ray said his testimony focused mainly on the administrative difficulties that would be created by a radically redrawn map, given the many deadlines coming up related to the March 6 primaries.

Ray said he also is worried that a federal court in San Antonio that is hearing a challenge to the state’s redistricting map for state and congressional offices could create more severe administrative headaches.

A headache from correcting a map with so many Republican improprieties? Oh my! By all means, let’s not give the county more work to do after they messed it up the first time!

Anyway, the interim map could be completed this week, so, stay connected!

One response to “Harris County Redistricting Heads to Court–UPDATED

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