redistricting

Politics
2:05 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Is The Voting Rights Act Endangered? A Legal Primer

South Carolina is one state that requires special clearance from the Justice Department to change its election laws. Here Charles Monnich casts his vote in the GOP primary at Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Columbia, S.C. on Jan. 21.
Gerry Melendez MCT /Landov

Originally published on Tue February 28, 2012 1:47 pm

The roiling legal battles over election laws passed in various states have potentially far-reaching consequences: the fate of a key section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The landmark legislation requires the Justice Department to "pre-clear" any changes to election laws in some or all parts of 16 states, mostly in the South, because of their histories of racially discriminatory voting practices. The Justice Department recently used the mandate to block a voter identification law in South Carolina on grounds that it would harm minority voter turnout.

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Austin
8:52 am
Tue February 28, 2012

AM Update: Another Redistricting Deadline, STAAR Rule Deferred, Weekend Rail on the Way?

An agreement on Texas redistricting maps must be reached this weekend to preserve a May 29 primary.
Photo courtesy flickr.com/joegratz

Redistricting Maps Must be Drawn By Saturday for May Primaries

According to the Texas Tribune, if redistricting maps are not drawn by Saturday, March 3 then primaries will move to June.

The Tribune reports that the primaries cannot be held on May 29 if the deadline is not met this weekend. Instead, the date will yet again be pushed back, this time to June 26.

“The lawyers working on House maps have been pushing back and forth, primarily on three districts, and haven't produced an accord. And congressional maps, several lawyers have said, will have to be drawn by the three federal judges in San Antonio, because the parties can't seem to find common ground."

If the primaries are held in late May or June, the primary runoffs will be delayed to July 31 or August 28 reports the Tribune.

KUT News' Andy Uhler sheds some light on the court's long battle over the redistricting maps.

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Austin
8:54 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/17/12: Fracking and Groundwater, $90 Million More for F1 Track

An image from the UT Energy Institute's report on fracking.
Image courtesy Chesapeake Energy

UT Study Says Fracking Doesn’t Directly Contaminate Groundwater

A new report by the University of Texas at Austin released this week says there’s no direct link between groundwater contamination and hydraulic fracturing – a controversial method of extracting natural gas and oil from shale formations.

The research was done by UT's Energy Institute. The report’s authors say contamination is often the result of above ground spills or mishandling of wasterwater, but not caused directly by fracking. 

Fracking involves blasting water, mixed with sand and chemicals, underground to fracture rock and improve the flow of natural gas and oil. The practice is used at the North Texas Barnett Shale.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is also studying the environmental effects fracking may have on groundwater. Its preliminary results differ from the UT study.

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Politics
1:59 pm
Wed February 15, 2012

Redistricting Lawyers Reach Deal on Texas Senate Maps

Illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

[UPDATED] Election officials were told to prepare for a possible May 29 primary, as redistricting foes reached agreement on a map for Texas Senate elections this afternoon and continued talks on state House and congressional maps. That Senate deal means they won't alter Democratic Sen. Wendy Davis' Tarrant County district. 

SAN ANTONIO — Redistricting foes reached agreement on a statewide map for Texas Senate elections this afternoon and continued working on state House and congressional maps.

The fight over the Senate map was all about Tarrant County's Senate District 10, where Democrat Wendy Davis is the incumbent. Under their agreement, they'll leave the district alone, leaving Davis with the same plan that put her in office. It's a marginally Republican district that voted for John McCain for president in 2008 and for Rick Perry for governor in 2010. But for Davis, who had been drawn into a more hostile district by her fellow legislators, the deal is a win.

The lawyers presented it as an "interim" plan, meaning they reserve the right to fight again when permanent maps are drawn. But if it's approved by the court, this will be the map used for the 2012 elections.

That was a bright spot in a day when the lawyers and judges trudged through the lists of differences over political districts for legislative and congressional seats. The judges put the lawyers through their paces, asking them to make their arguments on congressional maps district by district.

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Austin
8:58 am
Wed February 15, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/15/12: Execution Drug Shortage, Redistricting Drama, Texas/OU Battles ACL

Texas' Huntsville Prison, home to the United State's most active execution chamber.
Photo courtesy Mark Britain, flickr.com/8427230@N04

Texas Prisons Hard Up for Execution Drugs?

Texas state prisons are running low on a key execution drug, according to a report released Tuesday. According to the Austin American-Statesman, state prison officials say there is enough of the drug to continue with six executions that are scheduled over the next four months.

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Politics
4:06 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Redistricting Experts Struggle to fix Maps, Elections

Photo illustration by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Still no maps, still no date.

The federal judges who asked attorneys to negotiate a deal on political maps for this year's elections instead got a day of explanations and arguments about why no such agreement has been made.

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Politics
8:19 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Sports and the Texas Redistricting Battle

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington, addresses BP chief executive Tony Hayward at an oil spill hearing in Washington.
Image courtesy YouTube

Political redistricting is for real nerds, for those sometimes overly serious people who have spent a great deal of time learning and thinking about something that’s outside the day-to-day experience or interest of the rest of us.

For the political lawyers, the subject comes with layers of statutes and case law and the certainty that one or more cases will go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That’s nerd heaven, you know: dense, complicated, both dull and important and loaded with the chance to get the public’s full attention, if only for a second, every 10 years.

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Politics
5:50 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Redistricting Judges to Lawyers: Get to Work

graphic by: Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

With hearings on redistricting scheduled for next week and deadlines for April primaries pending, a panel of federal judges told lawyers Friday afternoon to redouble their efforts to reach a quick settlement on interim political maps for the state's congressional and legislative elections.

That's not the first time they've told the lawyers to talk, but negotiations stalled this week when the state and some plaintiffs reached an agreement that several other plaintiffs didn't like.

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Politics
1:37 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Slow Redistricting Lowers Clout of Texas Voters

Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

In a parallel political universe — one in which redistricting maps were in place and elections were on schedule — Texas would be getting national attention right now.

The four survivors in the Republican presidential primary race would be hitting all the stops on the barbecue circuit, wearing jeans and boots, raising money, posing for pictures and saying remarkable things to be played over and over on TV.

Instead, the earliest possible date for our primary elections will come after 34 states and territories have already spoken, either through primaries or caucuses. It could come later, leaving Texas to join 13 states that hold presidential primaries in May and June.

Just think of it. If the federal courts had approved the maps drawn by the Legislature, or those drawn by a panel of federal judges in San Antonio last year, we’d be less than two weeks away from early voting.

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Austin
8:39 am
Tue February 7, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/7/12: Redistricting Map Rejected, Sonogram Law Proceeds, UT Beats A&M

A judge has rejected the Texas Attorney General's latest redistricting proposal, launching another round of discussion and scrutiny.
Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

Latest Redistricting Proposal Rejected

Late Monday, Federal Judge Orlando Garcia said there’s not enough support for Attorney General Greg Abbott’s proposed agreement with some of the minority groups involved in the redistricting lawsuit. He asked the groups to continue discussing the maps.

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Politics
4:12 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

AG Offers Redistricting Maps, Says Most Parties Agree

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has proposed a redistricting map several parties agree on. But others say there's "no agreement."
Image by Todd Wiseman, Texas Tribune

The state unveiled proposed redistricting maps, saying some of the parties in that litigation have signed off on at least some of the lines.

Today is a court-set deadline: Three federal judges in San Antonio told the redistricting parties that they needed to reach an agreement by this afternoon to preserve any hope of holding political primaries on April 3. Those primaries, already delayed from March 6, could be pushed back to May or June if maps aren't in place in time to stage the elections.

Attorney General Greg Abbott announced he had reached agreement on most parts of the maps with most of the parties involved. Notably absent from the deal are the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the NAACP, the so-called Davis plaintiffs, and the Texas Democratic Party, who sued over the Senate district maps in Tarrant County.

In a conference call on the proposal, Abbott says he's confident that the state will have a primary in April. "The plan that is now posted — that will not be objected to by a large number of parties to this lawsuit — addresses all of the Section 5 and Section 2 objections [under the federal Voting Rights Act]," he said.

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Politics
1:49 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Agreement Reached on Redistricting Maps?

An agreement on changes to redrawn Texas congressional districts may come in time to fight off another primary postponement.
Voting images by KUT News; Texas Capitol by Lizzie Chen for KUT News; Gavel photo courtesy flickr.com/fabliaux

Today is the deadline imposed by a San Antonio court for agreement on redrawn Texas districts. Any further delay, the court warned, and Texas’ primaries could be pushed back even further past their tentative April 3 date.

Word comes from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott this hour that an agreement may be forthcoming on “interim” maps for the 2012 elections. His office released the following statement:

“The proposed maps minimize changes to the redistricting plan passed by the Legislature and, as the U. S. Supreme Court required, makes changes only where necessary. The Texas Attorney General’s Office has worked with a wide range of interest groups to incorporate reasonable requests from all parties to the extent possible without compromising the will of the Texas Legislature. Even though these proposed interim maps aren’t fully supported by all interest groups, modifications have been incorporated based on requests made by all parties. Today’s maps should allow the court to finalize the interim redistricting maps in time to have elections in April,” Attorney General Abbott said.

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Texas
8:41 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Top Morning Stories 2/6/12: Perry's Public Return, Testing Foes Sharpen Criticism

Rick Perry and supporters in Iowa. Perry's speech tonight will mark his first public appearance since returning to Texas.
Photo by Ben Philpott for KUT News

Governor to Speak at Reagan Dinner

Gov. Rick Perry will be the keynote speaker tonight at the annual Williamson County Reagan Dinner.

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Austin
8:58 am
Tue January 31, 2012

Top Morning Stories 1/31/12: Redistricting Closing Arguments, AISD, Texas Science Gets a C

A federal court will hear closing arguments today in the Texas redistricting trial.
Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News

Closing Arguments in Texas Redistricting Trial

A federal court in Washington will hear closing arguments today in the Texas redistricting trial, the Associated Press reports. 

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Politics
4:53 pm
Mon January 30, 2012

Will Texas Primaries Be Pushed Back Again?

The latest news in the Texas redistricting fracas is that agreement on a map may not come in time for April primaries.
Voting images by KUT News; Texas Capitol by Lizzie Chen for KUT News; Gavel photo courtesy flickr.com/fabliaux

It looks like the April 3 date for Texas primaries – already pushed back from March – may get shoved back again.

The Associated Press reports one of the parties in the redistricting lawsuit that has delayed the primaries, Luis Vera, representing the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) says negotiations have stalled, and doesn’t anticipate talks between the state and the parties that sued to block the state’s redrawn map will be concluded in time.

The parties were given until February 6 to settle on redrawn districts, in time to preserve the April 3 primary. The groups are gathered at a conference in San Antonio in an attempt to hash out differences.

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