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Redistricting: lost in legal limbo


The following ran in the Feb. 11, 2012, edition of the San Antonio Express-News. Political scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

February 24, 2012

By Nolan Hicks and Tracy Idell Hamilton

When it comes to the legal neverland that is Texas redistricting, chaos reigns.
Counties can't prepare for primary elections, voters don't know when balloting will occur, political parties aren't sure where they should put their resources, and some candidates don't even know where to run.
In short, everything is in limbo until interim maps are ready, and no one is sure when that will be. The federal judges tasked with redrawing those maps could offer some hints during a key hearing Tuesday in San Antonio.
“It's a mess,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin. “What (the candidates) do know is that the race is going to eventually happen under some circumstance — that's the only certainty.”
Originally, the Texas primary elections were supposed to be held March 6. Then the U.S. Supreme Court intervened and the primaries were delayed until April 3. Now, county election officers and state party officials view that date as an impossible dream....

The stakes are high, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University and a longtime Texas political observer. Demographic changes taking place in Texas ultimately will disadvantage the current Republican majority to the benefit of Democrats, he said.
“The 2010 GOP landslide gave them the opportunity to lock in their position as the dominant political party in the state by gerrymandering districts to minimize the Hispanic population's growing political influence,” Jillson said.
But now the maps are “caught up in three federal courts, all of which have expressed some reservations about the legislatively drawn districts.”

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