redistricting

Graphic by Todd Wiseman

SAN ANTONIO — The state of Texas faced a healthy dose of judicial skepticism on Saturday as its lawyers laid out final arguments in a trial over whether lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in enacting current Texas House and Congressional district maps.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Mandy Blott, a psychologist living in East Austin, says she has always been somewhat plugged into politics. Her activism has ebbed and flowed through the years, but after the last presidential election, she decided to double down.

The first thing she did, she says, was look up her member of Congress.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

From Texas Standard:

An article by New Yorker staff writer and Texas resident Lawrence Wright makes the case that Texas is a political bellwether. In "America's Future Is Texas," Wright argues that, indeed, as Texas goes, so goes the nation — politically speaking, at any rate.

Illustration by Todd Wiseman

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday in a North Carolina gerrymandering case could have major implications for the drawing of political maps nationwide — including Texas' long-disputed redistricting maps.

In a 5-3 decision seen as a major victory for minority rights groups, the court struck down two North Carolina congressional districts, ruling that lawmakers illegally packed African-American voters into them, minimizing their political influence in the state.

Texas Legislative Council

Months ago, new Texas congressional maps for the 2018 election seemed like a pie-in-the-sky idea. The federal court looking at a lawsuit against the state’s 2011 map had sat on a ruling for years, and the case had gone unresolved for several election cycles.

Illustration by Anneke Paterson / Todd Wiseman

Some of Texas’ 36 congressional districts violate either the U.S. Constitution or the federal Voting Rights Act, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday.

In Texas, there’s far more at stake in the 2016 election season than who takes the White House.

The state is battling with federal courts over the voter ID law. There’s dysfunction in the Texas Democratic and Republican parties. And demographic change is accelerating.

Veronica Zaragovia / KUT

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.


Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

From the Texas Tribune: In a unanimous decision released Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to uphold Texas' current system for drawing legislative districts so that they are roughly equal in population.


Todd Wiseman/Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to hear a case that centers on how Texas draws its political districts, a longtime point of dispute between the state and voting rights advocates.

The high court said it will take up Evenwel v. Abbott, which involves whether Texas should use total population or voting age population when composing districts. The debate is especially pertinent in Texas, where some districts include many people living in the country illegally who are not eligible to vote. 

Today is the first day that campaigns and candidates for the Austin City Council can start soliciting or accepting political contributions. Although many things will be radically different this election cycle, asking for money will remain practically the same. 

When Austin voters changed the city’s form of government in 2012, they did not change anything when it comes to campaign contributions. Still, the city’s clerk Jannette Goodall says campaign contribution limits are adjusted every election cycle according to inflation.

For instance, the charter says 300 dollars “and I believe the current amount is 350,” says Goodall.

A federal court has ordered Texas to use political maps drawn by the Legislature this year for holding 2014 elections, but only on an interim basis. A three-judge panel in San Antonio issued the ruling today, giving both sides in the lawsuit over Texas' voting maps reason to claim victory. The court denied the state's request to throw out the lawsuit brought by civil rights groups. which claim the Legislature intentionally discriminated against minorities in 2011 and needs federal supervision. Here's more from KUT News' reporting partner The Texas Tribune:

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

The Texas Senate is recessed until June 12 and the House until June 17 as lawmakers hear public testimony on the 2012 court-drawn voting maps. What does that mean for a possible price tag?

If the special session lasts the full 30 days, the Legislative Budget Board says it would cost taxpayers more than $1 million.

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, is the chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee. He says the work has value.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, was on the redistricting committee ten years ago. She's not on it this year but says special sessions on voting maps tend to be similar.

"Most other issues you can compromise, you can negotiate, but redistricting becomes so political," Sen. Nelson said.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Texans who want to offer opinions on the state’s political boundaries don’t have to do it here in Austin.

The opportunity is being expanded to other cities. State Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, chair of the House Redistricting Committee, said today he wants "broad input" on the voting maps’ deficiencies and how to fix them.

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

It’s all about redrawn political lines these days at the Texas Capitol, and at today’s first hearing of the Senate Redistricting Committee, more questions arose.

But one thing has become clear: Lawmakers will be in Austin at least until mid-June.

Laura Rice, KUT News

The Texas Senate is holding a public hearing this morning on redistricting.

It’s a chance for people to tell lawmakers what they think about district maps drawn for state House, Senate and Congressional elections.

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Legislative redistricting meant all Texas senators had to run for office in 2012. But since the Senate has staggered four-year terms, it had to pick about half of its members to run again two years from now.

Five senators now represent some part of Travis and Williamson counties. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, each got four-year terms. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, and Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, got two-year terms.

flickr.com/s_falkow

This morning the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a call from the League of United Latin American Citizens to bar the use of Texas district maps drawn by a panel of judges for use in the November elections.

The maps were drawn to replace maps put together by the Republican-led Texas legislature. In August, a Federal Court in Washington D.C. blocked their use.

But LULAC argues that the maps drawn by the judges were based on the maps drawn by the legislature so both should be thrown out.

"Everyone agrees. Everyone, including the state, agrees that these maps are flawed. There's something wrong. We all disagree over exactly what is flawed but, either way, there's flaws in them," LULAC's attorney Luis Vera says.

Bob Daemmrich for Texas Tribune

Greg Abbott, the state’s ambitious and litigious attorney general, is on a losing streak.

Federal courts in Washington ruled against him in two crucial voting rights cases last week, first finding that the redistricting maps drawn by the Republican Legislature didn’t protect minority voters as the law requires, and then ruling the state’s tough new photo voter ID law unfairly burdens minority voters.

Neither ruling appears to be a threat to the elections now under way. In the case of redistricting, the state’s maps were replaced this year with interim maps prepared by another set of federal judges. In the case of voter ID, there doesn’t appear to be enough time for the courts to turn around an appeal and order the new standards before November.

Pages