Breaking: 3-Judge Court Keeps Texas Redistricting Plan in Place, for Now

There has been a ruling, of sorts, in the never-ending Texas redistricting case challenging the Texas House and Texas congressional districts under the Voting Rights Act.

The three-judge panel, which has been hearing permutations of this case for about half the redistricting cycle, today issued a 7-page unanimous order rejecting some of the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction to change the redistricting plans pending a further resolution on the merits.

When this motion was filed, I saw it as an attempt to prod what plaintiffs must believe to be a dilatory three-judge court. But today the three-judge court essentially said two things: (1) we are working really hard on a final decision but we are not there yet; and (2) doing yet another map is just going to confuse things and make them worse.

I expect what is going on behind the scenes is that we are not going to see a unanimous opinion.  Instead we are going to see a split opinion, and if Texas is on the losing end of things, a quick appeal to the Supreme Court.  (Maybe an appeal if Texas wins too, but that’s less certain.)

The wheels of Justice turn slowly, but if they turn much more slowly we’ll be gearing up for the next redistricting cycle! The best case scenario now is a ruling in a case originally filed in 2011 affecting the 2018 elections.

A couple of snippets from the opinion:

“The Court has been working diligently and has made substantial progress toward resolution of the claims on the 2011 plans; however, it has not yet reached a final decision. Trial on the merits of the claims against the 2013 plans has not been scheduled, and legal challenges to the 2013 plans will not be resolved before the 2016 election cycle.”

“Even if movants could show a likelihood of success on the merits, the Court must balance the need to protect voting rights that may be affected by the 2013 plans with the need to avoid the adverse effect on voting rights that comes with delay and confusion during election time. If the Court enjoined the 2013 enacted plans and imposed yet another set of interim plans for the 2016 election, the shifting district and precinct lines would leave candidates in limbo, voters confused, and election officials with the burden of implementing new maps in a timely manner with very limited resources. It would be extremely difficult to implement new interim plans without tremendous interruption to the 2016 election schedule. The balance of equities does not tip in movants’ favor.”

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