Glimmer of Hope in Texas Redistricting Battle Could Preserve April Primary

Hemera/Thinkstock(SAN ANTONIO) -- There was a glimmer of hope Monday for a resolution in the long and tangled battle over Texas’ redistricting maps, when state Attorney General Greg Abbott and members of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund agreed to a set of interim congressional maps.

The rare moment of consensus between the state and the Latino leadership organizations comes just in time to possibly preserve the Lone Star State’s April primary date, which was originally scheduled for Super Tuesday on March 6 but was moved back a month because of the redistricting fight.

As the second-largest state, Texas is fighting to preserve its relevance in a GOP primary race that is beginning to be dominated by Mitt Romney. And while Texas pushes to stay in the heat of the battle, so too is GOP candidate Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich vowed Sunday on CBS’ Face the Nation that his campaign would push on through Super Tuesday and said that after Texas voters take to the polls, his goal is to be “about tied in delegates” with Romney.

But the Texas redistricting battle is far from over and thus the state’s primary date is far from certain. Some minority groups still oppose the state’s newest compromise maps and the lingering disagreements may force the Texas primary into late May or June.

MALDEF, which represents Texas’ Latino leadership organizations in the redistricting lawsuit, issued a statement Monday saying it was “amenable” to the new maps and would not challenge them.

“While neither plan is perfect, the Task Force feels it is time to move forward with Texas primaries and let the voters decide the outcome under a legally valid map that protects all existing minority opportunity districts … [and] complies with the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution,” the statement said.

But Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, which represents Texas’ Latino elected officials, said the newest maps “are a beginning point, not an end.”

“The Attorney General presents an illusion of an inclusive map; the reality is that it falls short of recognizing minority growth in Texas,” Martinez Fischer said in a statement posted to the group’s Facebook page. “While all the parties support a primary as soon as possible, we want to ensure that Texans have fair and legal redistricting maps.”

Abbott said in a statement Monday that the newest maps “incorporate reasonable requests” from opposing parties “without compromising the will of the Texas Legislature” and make changes “only where necessary” to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The original maps, drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature last summer, were immediately challenged by a cohort of Latino advocacy groups which claimed the maps illegally diluted Hispanics’ voting power.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in January that the legislature’s maps violated the Voting Rights Act and sent the maps back to the San Antonio court where a compromise is being hammered out.

Texas gained four new congressional seats following the 2010 Census -- more than any other state -- in large part because of the state’s booming Hispanic population, which accounted for 65 percent of Texas’ population growth over the past decade.

The San Antonio court will hear an additional round of arguments on the compromise proposals Feb. 15. If no consensus is reached then, the Texas primary will again be delayed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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