With the 2018 election cycle looming, a federal judge panel has set July 10 as the start date for a trial over the state’s House and congressional political maps.
In an order filed Monday, the three judges presiding over the case scheduled the five-day trial following a pair of rulings that found Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in initially drawing each map in 2011.
"The Court is aware of the condensed schedule that must be implemented in light of the 2018 election deadlines, and expects counsel and the parties to work diligently to meet the deadlines contained herein," the panel wrote.
In March, the panel ruled lawmakers knowingly discriminated in drawing three of the state’s 36 congressional districts: CD-23, represented by Will Hurd, R-Helotes; CD-27, represented by Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi; and CD-35, represented by Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. And this month, the judges found in a 2-1 ruling that the 2011 Texas Legislature intentionally diluted the clout of minority voters statewide and specifically in a litany of state House districts across Texas.
But neither of the recent rulings required immediate fixes because the state has been operating under maps temporarily drawn by the court amid an election scramble and approved by the 2013 Legislature. The trial schedule released Monday followed a lengthy and complicated hearing last week over the fate of those maps.
"After hearing from counsel on various issues and taking their concerns into consideration, the court finds that the case should proceed expeditiously to trial on the merits," the judges wrote.
Local elections administrators have said they need clarity by October to meet deadlines for sending out voter registration cards, and December is the filing deadline for candidates.