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Federal court issues new Texas voting district maps

A panel of three judges in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] on Tuesday issued new voting maps [materials] for use in the 2012 elections. The new maps were issued after the US Supreme Court [official website] rejected [JURIST report] Texas's interim redistricting maps in an emergency appeal [JURIST report] filed to challenge an interim map drawn up by the US District Court for the Western District of Texas. The Supreme Court rejected the initial interim maps, finding that, "it is unclear whether the District Court for the Western District of Texas followed the appropriate standards." State Attorney General Greg Abbott [official website] released a statement [press release] calling the new maps a "substantial improvement" and stating that the "new interim maps more accurately reflect the decisions of elected Texas legislators" as per the requirement of the Supreme Court. The new maps clear the way for the Texas primary election which has been delayed twice. The tentative date for the primary has been set [NYT report] for May 29, but, if there is an appeal of the new maps the date could be pushed back once again.

According to the 2010 census, Texas' population grew by 4.3 million, which gave it four more seats in the US House of Representatives. The Republican-controlled state legislature redrew the congressional districts in a way that challengers claim would make it more likely for Republicans to win those new seats. The plan must be approved by either the Justice Department or a federal court under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [Cornell LII backgrounder], and the Obama administration has objected to the plan. In the meantime, the federal court in Texas drew an "interim map" for use in the 2012 election. That is the map that was challenged before the Supreme Court. The Obama administration urged the Supreme Court to reject the interim maps, and the court heard arguments [JURIST reports] in the case last month.

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