A legal battle over some of the state’s political districts still isn’t over. About half a decade ago, a group of Texas voters sued the state claiming the legislature’s 2011 redistricting maps discriminated against minorities. About two years ago, there was a trial, but since then nothing has happened.
There are a lot of reasons for Texas’ political districts have been the subject of contention for a while. For one, some voting advocates say the state is divided in really partisan ways, and it’s made people less interested in voting here, says Grace Chimene with the League of Women Voters of Texas.
“There is not as much competition in Texas as there are in other places,” Chimene explains. “And there isn’t much competition in races sometimes because of the way that the maps have been configured. It makes it so people are as though ‘What’s the point? My person never wins, I’m not going to try.’”
Another argument is that the way Texas lawmakers have drawn districts – particularly after the 2010 Census –made it harder for the state’s growing minority population to get a growing share of congressional representation.
That particular argument has been the driving force of a legal challenge – a challenge that is still not resolved.
There have been bumps in the road slowing this lawsuit down, though. For example, a part of the Voting Rights Act was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013, which complicated things.
But there was eventually a trial in 2014 on the state’s maps. It’s two years later, though, and there’s still no ruling.
“That part of it is very unusual, where a court would allow let elections to go forward in 2014, and now 2016 under a plan that is under legal challenge and an interim plan is still in effect,” says Gerry Hebert, an attorney representing the voters challenging the state’s maps. “We have a lot of lawyers scratching their heads about what the court is actually doing.”
Around the same time this lawsuit was filed, a challenge to the Voter ID law was also filed. But that case has been all but settled, and this one hasn’t. Hebert says about one or two months ago he even filed a motion with the federal court in San Antonio asking for a hearing to get a status update on the case.
“And we haven’t heard anything back from the court,” he says. “Even though the motion was not opposed by any party in the case – including the Texas Attorney General’s office. I think all the parties in the case are anxious to find out why we are where we are and how to get the case moving again.”
As Hebert mentioned, the state is using some interim maps, which were supposed to be a placeholder until three federal judges ruled on the case.
“We know that the 2016 elections will go forward under the same old plan, which is supposed to be a temporary plan that’s now been in effect for the 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections,” he said. “It’s frankly just very disappointing.”