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And We’re Off — The Texas Redistricting Trial Starts Today

The curtains are rising on the redistricting case in Texas today as three federal judges in San Antonio begin a week-long trial centered on a crucial question: Did the state intentionally weaken voting rights for millions of Texans just because of their skin color?

Did Texas target voters by race? No, the state says — even though they admit to drawing maps in a partisan way, which is something courts have allowed in the past.

The curtains are rising on the redistricting case in Texas today as three federal judges in San Antonio begin a week-long trial centered on a crucial question: Did the state intentionally weaken voting rights for millions of Texans just because of their skin color? With 2018 elections coming into sight, the clock is ticking — and the trial could set the stage for shaking up races across the state. Here’s what you need to know

• How did we get here? After fresh census data came out in 2010, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature drafted new political boundaries. Minority rights groups immediately raised a red flag, calling the new state and congressional maps discriminatory toward Latino and black voters across Texas. A court drew temporary maps ahead of the 2012 elections in response; lawmakers formally adopted those in 2013 and the state has used them ever since. 

• The issue flared this spring when the same three judges heading the trial this week dealt two blows to the state. They first ruled that three of Texas’ 36 congressional districts were drawn illegally. The judges took issue with the state’s House map a month later, saying the political boundaries intentionally discriminated against minorities statewide and in particular districts

• The divide: Texas wants the trio of judges to dump the legal challenge of the maps. Minority rights groups want the maps — which they argue were meant to be temporary — redrawn before the 2018 election cycle. Did Texas target voters by race? No, the state says — even though they admit to drawing maps in a partisan way, which is something courts have allowed in the past. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to consider another major redistricting case challenging maps drawn to gain partisan advantage.

• Tick tock. If the judges order new maps, it would send lawmakers scrambling to create new ones without delaying the upcoming elections. If the involved parties aren’t happy with the eventual ruling, the case could head to the U.S. Supreme Court, potentially altering timing for candidates in the 2018 election cycle. The trial is expected wrap up Friday or Saturday, but it’s unclear when the judges will rule.

 

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