| This afternoon, the San Antonio three-judge panel indicated that the April unified primary election will be postponed and that it was probable (but not a certainty) that the new primary date will be May 29th. As previously reported, on Tuesday, county clerks and elections administrators testified that they need 88 days of lead time to prepare for a primary election from the date that new district maps are issued. Today at the hearing, the Texas Secretary of State’s office indicated that this timeline could be shrunk to 77 days and reduced even further if military ballots were accepted for a short period of time after the primary. Consequently, new maps need to be in place sometime between early and mid-March in order to maintain the May 29th primary date.
Chairman Munisteri discussed with the Court the problems a May 29th primary creates for the party’s delegate selection process for the RPT State Convention. He reiterated that it is impossible to comply with the current Texas Election Code as it pertains to delegate selection, with the primary on May 29th and the State Convention in the first week of June. He strongly urged the Court to issue an order that would allow the State Republican Executive Committee to adopt a new delegate selection process which varies from the Election Code. He told the court that if there is sufficient time for planning, that in consultation with party leadership, he had several different options in mind which: would allow district conventions to still occur on schedule, allow for a May 29th primary, and still allow for a convention the next week. In general terms, he suggested different options which would completely de-couple the selection of delegates to the State Convention from the primary election.
The Court indicated it was very likely that they would grant such a request from the State Party, provided it received U.S. Department of Justice pre-clearance. Chairman Munisteri made the case that DOJ pre-clearance is not required in a case where the changes are made as a result of court order. However, the Court indicated that they thought it was a safer route to obtain pre-clearance. A Department of Justice attorney testified that his office would expedite such a request and anticipated that the approval time could be reduced from a couple of months to a couple of weeks, thereby allowing the change to occur.
The Court instructed both political parties to consult on a new schedule for a May 29th primary. It also invited the state parties to put forth separate proposals as to how they would select delegates and conduct their conventions. Chairman Munisteri is hoping to hold a telephone conference with members of the Republican Party of Texas Officials Committee tomorrow to go over various options. He plans within the next few days, to have a separate telephone conference with the entire SREC to go over recommendations from the Officials Committee. It is his hope that a consensus plan can be agreed upon by the SREC. If this is accomplished, he will distribute this plan to all County Chairmen to obtain their input, and then once a final plan is agreed upon – to propose the plan to the three-judge panel in San Antonio.
It is the Chairman’s goal to develop a process around existing Senatorial and County conventions so as to minimize inconvenience and logistical problems. It remains his objective to keep the State Republican Convention scheduled as planned during the first week of June. We will provide further information over the next few days as to developments in this regard.
Also on Wednesday – Chairman Munisteri, RPT lawyers and staff spent another day in the courtroom listening to final arguments in the redistricting case. It appears as though there is an agreement between the Attorney General and the Democrats on a new Texas State Senate map. As soon as we have full details, we will provide them to you – but it is expected that the final lines will make it possible for a Republican to win the district in controversy, SD 10, although not a certainty.
At the time the hearing concluded, General Abbott’s team had not reached agreement with all the plaintiffs on all districts pertaining to the Texas House map. With one set of plaintiffs, there is still a battle over Republican districts HD 144 (currently held by Ken Legler), HD 117 (currently held by John Garza) and HD 81 (currently held by Tryon Lewis). Another set of plaintiffs wanted to change the lines of another 30 districts on the State House map in an even larger grab for seats.
With regards to the Congressional districts (discussion of which took up most of the day) the prime battleground appears to be over CD 33, 25, 23, 35 and 27. Of particular concern to the Republican Party of Texas is CD23, which is represented by Congressman Quico Canseco. General Abbott’s map is roughly equivalent to how that district was configured before redistricting, while the Democrats are pushing for an increase of Democrat voters there.
There was also a big argument with the Democrats over CD 25, currently represented by Lloyd Doggett. Travis County and other Democratic plaintiffs are arguing that the district should not be converted to a Republican district, since in their opinion the district is protected under the Voting Rights Act – General Abbott’s team disputes this. There are also several different proposals regarding Congressional District 33 in Arlington. Additionally, Congressman Joe Barton’s legal team (led by former State Representative Joe Nixon) argues that the configuration of that district in the Attorney General’s compromise proposal is not allowable under current legal standard. At the end of the hearing today, there was also no agreement on the Texas Congressional map.
Chairman Munisteri issued the following statement regarding today’s proceedings. “I am disappointed that the San Antonio three-judge panel again delayed the Texas Primary Election. The Secretary of State’s witness today indicated that if the panel would issue maps within the next few days – that an April 24th primary could still be accomplished. However, now that it is apparent that April is out, the RPT will continue to fight to oppose any further slippage in the primary schedule. We will work hard with our Party leadership to come up with a plan to preserve our State convention.”
At this juncture, it appears that there will not be an agreement between all parties regarding all districts. Therefore, at this time, it appears that the three-judge panel will have to decide where the final lines are for the Texas House and Congressional districts.
Special Advisory to all Republican county chairmen, precinct chairmen, and party activists from Chairman Munisteri - I am hopeful that the SREC will come up with a plan for the three-judge panel that will still allow district conventions on the date scheduled. Therefore it is our advice that you not cancel your plans to go forward with district conventions until otherwise instructed. I am hopeful that within the next week or so, that we will have a telephone conference with all county chairs to provide them more information on any proposed plans. The RPT is committed to working with each of you to come up with a workable solution to this unprecedented challenge. Thank you again for your patience and hard work.
Today in San Antonio, the three-judge panel began a full day of hearing final arguments in the Texas redistricting case, which affects the scheduling of the state primary and state convention. We can report that the Court appears to be backing off of its stated intention to have a unified April Primary Election. This comes after assorted county election officials stepped forward to testify that it would be impossible to hold a unified April Primary Election – even if they had maps today.
Although the Republican Party of Texas had Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart appear before the panel to testify that an April 24th primary election is still doable, our sense is the Court now believes that April is no longer viable for a single unified primary. From the Court’s questioning, it seemed that at least one judge and possibly two would prefer to go ahead with a Presidential primary and statewide races in April and the other races at a date to be determined in the future. How the extra primary election would be funded appears problematic at this time. We won’t know until the Court rules whether these conclusions are correct. Our best estimate right now is that there will be a single unified primary on May 29th, absent the state coming up with funds for a split primary.
Because the Texas Democratic Party’s lawyers backed up Chairman Munisteri’s testimony at the hearing that it is practically not possible to move the State Conventions at this late date, one thing we know for sure (and the Court is aware of this fact), is that you can’t schedule the primary after the State Conventions unless (as the Democratic lawyer stated) the State Parties can find a field somewhere to hold their conventions and if we could guarantee good weather.
Chairman Munisteri testified to the Court that it would be impossible to select delegates in accordance with the process prescribed in the Election Code, if the primary was not held until May 29th and the state convention began on June 7th. However, the Court signaled that it would be open to judicial relief to allow the State Parties to select their delegates in a way that didn’t require precinct conventions to be tied to the primary. The Texas Democratic Party lawyer went a step further and argued that even though the Election Code prescribes the process, that it is their position that the Election Code is unenforceable because the political parties are private organizations and thus they could change their rules without a court order. The RPT believes it would be risky to do so and prefers the route of obtaining judicial permission prior to such action. In the event the Court schedules a May primary, Chairman Munisteri plans to schedule an emergency teleconference with all SREC members and Republican County Chairs to discuss alternative processes for picking State Convention delegates, in the hopes of coming to a consensus as to what to suggest to the court for relief.
The court also heard presentations from several plaintiffs and the State of Texas as to their position relative to how maps should be drawn. Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court directed the three-judge panel to issue new maps that were neither the legislative-drawn lines, nor the subsequent lines issued by the San Antonio three-judge panel in November. In issuing that directive, the Supreme Court set forth the criteria by which lines could be altered. Specifically, the Supreme Court said that if the San Antonio panel found there was a “not insubstantial” chance of violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, that lines could be altered to comply with Section 5. A Washington, D.C. three-judge federal panel has had a trial on Section 5 so as to make a final determination as to violations, but the Supreme Court indicated that the San Antonio three-judge federal panel should issue interim maps which correct any deficiencies in districts in which the “not insubstantial” standard was met. Moreover, the San Antonio three-judge panel has jurisdiction over Section 2 violations of the Voting Rights Act and the Supreme Court indicated that if there were violations of this provision, that lines could be altered as well.
In recent orders, the San Antonio three-judge panel had directed the plaintiffs and the State of Texas (representing the legislative maps) to see if they could agree which districts fell under these criteria and suggest fixes. Last week, the Attorney General put forth a proposed set of maps which addressed potentially problematic districts while at the same time, tried to stay as close to the original legislative maps as possible. Some of the plaintiffs’ groups agreed to some of the proposed lines. The hearing today flushed out the differences, with each party stating their differences and arguments thereof. The Attorney General’s proposals put forth what it believes are 50 Texas State House districts which have an opportunity for minorities to elect their candidates of choice – a number which meets the benchmark (2010) plan’s number of 50 such districts. Some of the plaintiffs’ groups however, want 51 or more of these districts, and a much larger number of “coalition” districts, which would likely elect Democrats, but would not have a majority of their citizen voting age population be comprised of a single minority group. Another group of plaintiffs which opposes the suggested lines put forth by the Attorney General, was arguing for 67 majority-minority districts in the State House. In effect, their proposed maps would substantially reduce the number of Republican legislators.
The Latino Redistricting Task Force, which represents a number of the Latino groups, has indicated that they would not object to much of the proposed map, but they disagree over House District 144 (currently represented by Representative Ken Legler). The Attorney General’s map draws that district with 48% registered voters with Spanish surnames. The Latino Redistricting Task Force would not accept any lines for HD 144 that do not have at least 50% of registration of Spanish surnames. That particular plaintiffs’ group was also willing to accept the proposed Congressional maps which would split the four new Congressional districts into lines which would result in two new Republican districts – an improvement over the three-judge panel’s maps but which is down one from the maps originally drawn by the Legislature. Many of the other plaintiffs’ groups opposed the proposed Congressional map and wanted at least one more Democratic Congressional district in addition to the two new Democratic districts contained in the Attorney General’s map. Congressman Joe Barton has intervened, and is arguing for one more Republican district.
The State Senate map has really only one district in dispute – that being Senate District 10, the district held by State Senator Wendy Davis. Apparently the Attorney General and the plaintiff Democrats are not that far apart in respect to their proposals. Under virtually every anticipated scenario, at the very least that senate district would be winnable by a Republican candidate. The final battle over the lines will determine whether it is a toss-up district, or one where the Republicans will have a slight advantage.
To complicate things further, the Department of Justice sent a lawyer who argued that there were five Texas House districts on the previously-drawn legislative map, which the Department of Justice is insisting be changed because of violations to the Voting Rights Act. The DOJ lawyer also stated emphatically that the federal court panel has limited authority to alter deadlines that were controlled by federal statute.
At this time, it seems more likely than not, that all the parties will not come to an agreement on the Congressional and Texas House maps. Therefore, we are assuming that once the hearing is concluded tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 15) that the final map lines will be decided by the three-judge panel as opposed to the parties in the lawsuit. To add another wrinkle, one of the judges suggested that if the primary will have to be delayed until May anyway – that the San Antonio three-judge panel may delay their decision for at least a while to see if they get a ruling out of the Washington D.C. three-judge panel regarding potential Section 5 violations so that they can incorporate the decision into their deliberations.
After attending in full and testifying at the hearing, Chairman Munisteri issued the following statement – “It is the Republican Party of Texas’ position that a single unified primary is still possible for April. If the Court delays the primary further, it will be a great disappointment to Republicans who wish to have early participation in the Presidential primary process. I would like to applaud the work of General Abbott’s Deputy Attorney General for Defense Litigation, David Mattax, who I thought did an excellent job refuting the Democrats’ contention that Republicans intentionally discriminated against minorities, as well as providing excellent rebuttal district by district to the plaintiffs’ attorneys contention that more districts needed to have their lines altered with the intent of creating additional Democratic districts.”
The hearing will continue tomorrow, but is expected to conclude by 2:30pm. We should know tomorrow for certain, whether we have a split primary or a unified primary. We should also know whether April is definitely out. We hopefully will have some guidance as to what flexibility the parties will have in altering the delegate selection process. We will provide a further report after tomorrow’s hearing.
Advisory to all Republican county chairmen, precinct chairmen, and party activists - In the event that the primary is pushed back further, the RPT will still seek court relief to allow district conventions to go forward on the dates you already have scheduled but with the different delegate selection process. Consequently, at this time – we urge you not to cancel your district conventions as they still may occur on the same day. We anticipate having a conference call with the SREC in the next week to discuss the situation and examine options together. Thank you for your understanding and patience in this difficult situation.
Court Moves Up Next Week’s Hearing to Tuesday
On Wednesday, the San Antonio three-judge panel held and concluded a one-day trial on the redistricting lawsuit filed by Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis against the State of Texas and pertaining to the State Senate maps. The Republican Party of Texas is named as a defendant in the lawsuit and was represented at the trial by RPT Assistant General Counsel Eric Opiela and attorney Donna Davidson.
From the RPT’s perspective, the trial went very well. Attorney General Greg Abbott’s team had an excellent day in court, and offered a strong defense for the State. The conclusion of this trial sets the stage for final action from the San Antonio three-judge panel in the upcoming days, and the rapidity in which the trial concluded also brought forth another positive development. At the end of the day, the Court announced that they would move up the next status hearing by one day to Tuesday, February 14th. The new court order is a change from the date that was previously announced in yesterday’s Chairman’s Update. This hearing will be critically important in determining the future of the unified April Primary and RPT will be strongly represented at the hearing by Chairman Steve Munisteri and our legal team. Also at yesterday’s hearing, the Court instructed both sides to have another round of negotiations and report back by Monday as to the results. Today, the Attorney General’s office made a filing with the court relative to their legal position on the specific legislative districts that are still under contention. We will keep you informed of any developments as they occur, but at this point – all of our attention is focused upon preparing for what we hope will be a quick action from the San Antonio three-judge panel at the end of Tuesday’s hearing.
Unified April Primary Still Possible
AUSTIN – On Monday afternoon, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced an agreement with some of the plaintiffs to the Texas redistricting lawsuit. In a released statement on Monday, the Attorney General indicated support from a significant number of plaintiffs’ groups, including: Texas LULAC, MALDEF, GI Forum, The Mexican American Bar Association of Texas, La Fe Policy Research and Education Center, Hispanics Organized for Political Education (HOPE), the National Organization for Mexican American Rights, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, the William C. Velasquez Institute, Southwest Workers’ Union, and other plaintiffs collectively known as the “Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force.” With respect to the U.S. Congress, the Attorney General was also able to reach an agreement with Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar.
The Attorney General has posted the proposed maps online which are agreed to by these plaintiffs. The Republican Party of Texas has been closely analyzing these proposed lines. If the court agrees to enact these interim maps, the proposal should enable the Republican Party to have an excellent chance at preserving all of the Congressional seats we won in 2010, and would also provide a very strong chance at picking up an additional couple of Congressional seats from the four Texas has gained through reapportionment. This is an improvement over the maps originally issued by the San Antonio three-judge panel. Under those maps, there was a possibility that the Republican Party would not win any of the new four seats, and Republicans also faced a possibility of losing one or two of our existing incumbents.
In regards to proposed maps for the Texas House of Representatives, the proposal preserves the ability of the Republican Party to achieve a solid majority in that body. RPT staff has analyzed the maps over the past few hours and believe that there will be 96 State House districts with an average GOP vote of 50% or better (using vote totals for the 2008 Presidential Election.) Thus, the new proposed maps represent an improvement over the court-issued maps, with fewer Republican seats at risk than the lines drawn by the San Antonio three-judge panel last year.
On the State Senate side, there is really only one district in dispute – that being SD 10 with Democratic Senator Wendy Davis. A trial is already scheduled this week on that district, so hopefully the court will be in a position to issue a ruling early next week and issue a new State Senate map in time for there to be a single unified primary in April.
While these are only proposed maps at the present time, the filing of them greatly increases the chances that there will still be a single unified primary in mid-April. It is the Republican Party of Texas’ position that even if maps are not agreed to by all parties, that the Court now has sufficient information as to the respective positions of all parties so as to allow the Court to issue final maps in time for a single unified primary in mid-April. The RPT filed an advisory this morning to this effect, a copy of which is linked here.
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Steve Munisteri issued the following statement, relative to these developments. “I believe these lines are a substantial improvement overall when compared to the maps initially released by the San Antonio three-judge panel overseeing redistricting. These proposed maps do have some substantial differences from the originally drawn legislative maps. The unanimous Supreme Court ruling in January stated that the legislative maps (prior to preclearance) and the San Antonio three-judge panel maps were both unable to be used in the 2012 Texas primary, but the Supreme Court also said that the legislative maps needed to be a starting point. As the Attorney General announced today, this agreement complies with the Supreme Court’s criteria, while at the same time preserving the opportunity for Republicans to make gains in the Congressional delegation and to preserve our solid majority in the State Legislature.”
Munisteri continued, “I am hopeful that the San Antonio three-judge panel will rule in a timely fashion on these new proposed maps, so that our candidates can have certainty and so that we can move forward with a unified primary. I am particularly hopeful that we can still have a Presidential primary prior to any candidates obtaining a majority of delegates necessary for nomination, and that Texas can still have a significant voice in the Republican Presidential primary process.
Advisory to all Republican county chairmen, precinct chairmen, and party activists – It appears as though today’s developments make it unlikely that there will be an April 3rd Primary. However, it is increasingly likely that there will be a single unified primary in mid-April. If the three-judge panel acts swiftly on these new proposed maps, it is still possible for an April unified primary to occur. Therefore, we recommend you still make preliminary preparations for a primary sometime in the second or third week of April. We still cannot definitively tell you when the primary will occur, but we expect there to be additional announcements within the next week, so please be on the lookout for additional emails and leadership advisories.
There have been two significant communications from different courts over last 24 hours that gives us some indication as to the direction and the schedules that the San Antonio three-judge panel will take us in the ongoing Texas redistricting saga. This update will inform you as to their contents and significance to the proceedings.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Washington, D.C. three-judge panel issued a statement notifying concerned parties not to expect a decision in that case for at least 30 days. It was hoped that the D.C. panel might issue a quick decision so as to allow the San Antonio three-judge panel to utilize the D.C. panel’s findings as part of the San Antonio panel’s process of issuing new interim maps that are legally compliant. A delay of a month by the D.C. panel puts the San Antonio panel in the position of either: waiting at least an additional month before further action, or instead, moving ahead with the drawing of interim maps based on the information they already have available.
Today, the San Antonio three-judge panel issued an order requiring interested parties to the redistricting lawsuit to file briefs by February 10th, and setting an additional status conference for 8:00am on February 15th. The San Antonio panel also had previously scheduled a trial on the State Senate map for February 8th. These actions suggest that the San Antonio three-judge panel is willing to move the map-drawing process forward without necessarily waiting on the Washington, D.C. panel. However, the schedule put forth by the court today does not lend itself to an April 3rd unified primary date. While it is still theoretically possible to have an April 17th primary date (if the court issues a very quick decision after the February 15th hearing and immediately drew new maps), in all likelihood, this new schedule means that a new single unified primary date could not be held until at least April 24th.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the Texas Democratic Party filed an advisory to the court withdrawing their previous statement that a single unified April primary was possible. TDP now takes the position that it does not oppose a bifurcated primary with the first primary in April as a subsequent primary to a later date, but only if the State of Texas will agree to pay for it. The Texas Democratic Party’s position is that if the State of Texas will not pay for it, that they do not favor a bifurcated primary, but rather, a much later single unified primary, presumably sometime this summer.
It remains the Republican Party of Texas’ position that in order to comply with the process specified by the Texas Election Code for the selection of delegates to the State Convention, that a primary must be held on or before April 17th. Consequently, the State Chairman, in consultation with party leadership, is examining all options in order to resolve this conflict and will issue further advisories once a recommended course of action is determined.
On a related topic, the Republican Party of Texas has been informed that communication is still occurring between the Attorney General’s office and the plaintiffs to the redistricting suits. Therefore, the theoretical possibility still exists that an agreement between the Attorney General and the plaintiffs could be obtained before Monday, February 6th – thereby allowing an April 3rd unified primary. However, the odds of this happening diminish by the hour. It will be apparent by Monday whether an agreement was reached in time to have an April 3rd unified primary. If there is no agreement, the case will move forward and we will continue to pass along information just as soon as we obtain it.
The Republican Party of Texas has received numerous emails and calls over the last few days inquiring about the status of the redistricting lawsuit. It has become apparent as a result of these questions, that many of our Republican activists are confused as to what issues are actually before the San Antonio three-judge panel, what the Supreme Court decision actually meant for the process, and what the role of RPT is in this process.
This confusion was heightened by a wholly inaccurate story in “The Hill” (a DC publication), which was then reinterpreted and disseminated through email chains this weekend. This particular article and the emails spreading it, stated that the Republican Party of Texas was in the process of negotiating trading Congressional districts in return for (among other things) saving a convention deposit. These false reports were sent out despite the fact that the Party has sent out regular updates on exactly what was occurring, including one on Saturday that clearly stated ”The Republican Party of Texas has not been invited to participate in these discussions…“
Understandably, this has been a confusing time for party activists and candidates. Among the general confusion, these sorts of emails and reports have heightened many questions, so in this update, the RPT would like to explain the current situation as we best understand it.
As a piece of important background to first discuss – the legislative maps were originally drawn by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor. Various plaintiffs’ groups (who include: MALC, NAACP, LULAC, Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force and Democratic elected officials) filed suit against the Speaker of the House, the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the State of Texas and both the Texas Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Texas, to prevent elections using the legislatively drawn maps. The state and the elected officials were named, presumably, because they are the entity that created the maps. As best as we can tell – the state parties’ were sued to enjoin the chairmen from holding primaries under the lines drawn by the Legislature.
The Attorney General represents the State of Texas and the elected officials who are defendants in the suits. It is his office that is charged with actually defending the State and its maps. The RPT’s position is that we were not even a necessary party to the original lawsuits because we did not draw the maps and are not charged with the responsibility of defending them. We also argued that there was no reason to enjoin the Party from holding the primary in the legislatively-drawn districts because the Party would use whatever maps became final by Court order. Consequently, at the beginning of the original trial in front of the San Antonio three-judge panel, not only was the Republican Party of Texas dismissed from the lawsuit, but so were the Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House, as neither were considered necessary parties. The case proceeded to a trial with Attorney General Abbott and his team defending the State of Texas and its maps. The Democratic plaintiffs sought and received from the San Antonio three-judge panel, an injunction preventing the maps enacted by the legislature from being used in the 2012 elections prior to being precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Due to this injunction, interim maps had to be drawn, and were issued by this same court last November in a split (2-1) vote.
Meanwhile, Senator Wendy Davis filed a new lawsuit just on her district, and again included the Republican Party of Texas. We have been seeking dismissal in that case as well, but as of this date, we have not been dismissed. The Republican Party of Texas has filed numerous advisories to alert the court that as they move forward in scheduling primaries, that they needed to be aware of potential consequences to the Party’s precinct conventions, county conventions, state conventions, as well as time periods necessary to accomplish getting out early ballots, complying with the MOVE act, etc.
When the Supreme Court agreed to hear Attorney General Abbott’s appeal of the three-judge panel’s decision issuing interim maps, the Supreme Court consolidated the Davis case with the other cases for purpose of their action. This move put the Republican Party of Texas as a party to the case in front of the Supreme Court. That is why the Republican Party of Texas filed a brief with the Supreme Court as to issues pertaining to the Primary scheduling and urging the Supreme Court for a quick ruling and action in the case. As noted in previous reports, that effort was successful and the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the San Antonio three-judge panel for further action.
The three-judge panel is only considering interim maps, not final maps. This is an important distinction, but it has been confusing to many for what it means. When the legislative maps were challenged, the three-judge panel was tasked with getting a preliminary ruling on maps because a final ruling could not be issued until all the potential legal challenges are resolved, including challenges to the maps before a different three-judge panel in Washington D.C. which is dealing with alleged violations of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
When the Supreme Court issued its opinion, it ruled that the three-judge panel had gone too far for multiple reasons. For example, the three-judge panel revised lines in some districts so as not to split precinct lines, and indicated that they did so for the greater public good. The Supreme Court ruled that the three-judge panel did not have the right to alter lines on this basis because the Legislature allowed the splitting of precinct lines, and it was beyond the scope of their duty to create their own maps based on the public good. Thus, a logical conclusion from this portion of the ruling is that the districts that were altered by the San Antonio three-judge panel, on this basis alone, should be restored to the legislatively drawn lines. We expect that they will be.
However, there were also challenges to the district lines on the basis of alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act – Sections 2 and 5 in particular. The Supreme Court indicated that the San Antonio three-judge panel could not presume that the legislative map violated those sections without there first having been a judicial determination of that fact. But the Supreme Court also indicated that the three judge panel could alter the legislative lines if they determined there was “reasonable probability” that the maps would be found in violation of the Voting Rights Act. To complicate things further, there is action in front of the previously mentioned three-judge panel in Washington D.C., which is determining whether certain Texas districts actually do violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Their ruling has not come down yet – but the plaintiffs have been arguing in front of the San Antonio three-judge panel to delay any additional rulings on the maps until that three-judge panel in Washington D.C. rules, so that final maps can be put into place.
Since there is no guarantee that we can get a ruling anytime soon, or get a ruling in time to accomplish a timely primary election, and since the Supreme Court did not say to wait on that ruling – the Attorney General’s office has been pushing for an immediate decision by the San Antonio three-judge panel. This is a position that the Republican Party of Texas thinks is reasonable and which we support.
One thing needs to be clearly understood about the Supreme Court’s decision so as to understand where we are in the process. When the Supreme Court ruled that the San Antonio three-judge panel’s maps were stayed, the Supreme Court did not reinstate the legislature’s maps, but instead, gave the task of redrawing maps back to the same San Antonio three-judge panel with the instructions to draw new maps in accordance with the criteria of their decision. This means that it will be the San Antonio three-judge panel that ultimately draws new maps, and they are still allowed to alter the Legislature’s maps if the panel determines there’s a reasonable probability of violations.
In comments on Friday, the San Antonio three-judge panel signaled that it would be helpful to them if the Attorney General (who represents the State and its maps) and the Democratic plaintiffs groups would get together and discuss if there is agreement on which districts there are areas of disputes over possible violations. By narrowing the number of contentious districts to a manageable number, it increases the likelihood that the San Antonio three-judge panel will be able to draw maps in time for an April primary. The agreement talks on this issue are going on exclusively between the plaintiff’s groups and the Attorney General and his team. The Republican Party of Texas has not been involved, nor invited, into these discussions as previously noted. The Party is told from time to time that the discussions are going on, and that they are significant, but it is not told the substance of the discussions. It is not unusual for parties to discussions to ask all the participants to keep talks confidential.
We are awaiting word from the Attorney General, in conjunction with the plaintiff’s groups, as to whether they can agree on which districts are in dispute, and which ones are not. Even after they report back to the San Antonio three-judge panel as to what they can and cannot agree on, the Court has made clear that any agreement between these two parties is not a true “settlement”. The three judges have been clear that the Court will be the only entity that decides upon the final lines for the new districts. The Court has also made clear that if the districts in dispute can be narrowed down, and if there is some agreement as to what is not in dispute by February 6, that there is still a good chance that Texas can have an April 3rd primary as long as the San Antonio three-judge panel can draw lines by February 6.
We will know if we can have an April 3rd primary by the end of the day on February 6th at the very latest.
As to a discussion on the state parties’ conventions – even if maps are not entered by February 6th, the Democratic Party and Republican Party entered into talks at the hearing on Friday, and subsequently advised the Court that they could still accomplish their state conventions (which both parties have scheduled during the first week of June) if the primary is held by April 17th. Since the Court previously indicated that an April 3rd primary could be held if maps were ready by February 6th, logic would dictate that if maps are obtained by February 20th, that we could still have a primary on April 17th. It is important to note, that the talks between the Democratic and Republican parties deal solely with the deadlines and scheduling of the primary election, not with the boundaries of state legislative or Congressional districts. Only the Attorney General’s office’s attorneys are involved in those discussions. Thus, the email chains that have gone out accusing the Republican Party of Texas of trying to save a convention deposit in exchange for district lines, are blatantly false.
As noted earlier, we are not even involved in the discussion of district lines. Furthermore, as was just previously explained, we do not need maps by February 6th to hold our state conventions on their current scheduled dates. We can get maps as late as February 20th and still accomplish these deadlines. It is the hope of the Republican Party of Texas that even if agreements are not worked out between the Attorney General and the plaintiffs’ groups, that the San Antonio three-judge panel would go ahead and issue maps by February 20th. It should also be noted that the Republican Party of Texas is not concerned merely with the convention deposit on the convention center and hotels, but rather we are concerned with the real possibility that there may not be a convention center or hotel rooms available for our 18,000 delegate contingent at a different date. The state convention serves our Party and our grassroots with the very real purpose of selecting the State Party’s officers, adopting its platform, and picking delegates to the national convention who will select our Party’s Presidential nominee. It is an important part of the overall political process.
It is the RPT’s position that a single unified primary still can be obtained sometime in early to mid April which would allow the state conventions to occur on time. It is also our position that such a schedule is not totally dependent upon any agreements between the Attorney General and the plaintiff’s groups, but rather, is within the authority of the San Antonio three-judge panel to draw lines and act quickly to expeditiously move these elections forward.
The State Party’s best guess on what will occur is that the legislative maps will be modified from the original legislatively-drawn lines by the San Antonio three-judge panel, but the modifications will not be as extensive as they were before the Supreme Court ruling. We expect the three-judge panel to issue new interim maps sometime in February. Whenever the maps are final, if they do not accomplish all the Republican Party of Texas’ goals of a fair map which meets the law representative of a strong Republican majority, then the State Party plans to move forward on its previously announced plan of action. That plan of action calls for all of our candidates to the Texas House and State Senate to pledge to support redistricting in 2013. This plan was authorized by the last meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC). In addition, the SREC has voted to place a ballot proposition on our 2012 primary ballot as a referendum on calling on the State Legislature to take up redistricting again in 2013. In the event that the maps are not representative of a strong Republican majority – we will ask all Republican primary voters to support this ballot proposition to encourage our State Legislature to draw new final maps in 2013.
For our part, we will endeavor to keep you fully advised on all developments as soon as practical. If you have any questions regarding this process, or if you receive any information through email chain which causes concern – please contact us with any questions at RPT headquarters. This will greatly help us all to avoid erroneous information from these questionable sources. Thank you for your help and for your support during these unusual times.
Friday afternoon, the Western District three-judge panel in San Antonio, which is overseeing redistricting and scheduling of the Texas primary, held a hearing in order to determine options as to when the Texas primary should be held, whether we will have one or two primaries, where the district lines will be, and an overall path forward on how to conduct the party’s primaries and state conventions.
The court heard from attorneys from various plaintiffs groups, as well as lawyers from the Attorney General’s office representing the State and the legislatively drawn maps, and also from the attorney for the Republican Party of Texas (RPT), Donna Davidson. The court also heard testimony from various witnesses, including Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, who was called as a witness by the RPT. During the hearing, the court also allowed RPT Chairman Steve Munisteri to address the panel in order for him to outline numerous concerns of the state party relative to the primaries and state conventions.
During the hearing, various positions were advocated relative to when the primary should be held and proposed dates spanned from April 3rd to June 26th. The court also asked numerous questions concerning the need for and feasibility of a bifurcated primary. The Republican Party of Texas’ position was that it was still possible to accomplish a single unified primary on April 3rd if maps could be obtained by early February. The Party also took the position, that if for some reason this could not be accomplished – that a single unified primary as late as April 17th would still be feasible if maps were received from the court by mid-February. During his testimony to the court, Chairman Munisteri also explained the difficulty (if not near-impossibility) of moving the state convention, and in his opinion, the impossibility of preparing properly for state conventions (scheduled for June 7-9) if the primary were to be held in late May.
The judges ordered that representatives of the two political parties confer during a break to see if there was any common ground that could be agreed upon. Chairman Munisteri entered into discussions directly with the attorney for the Texas Democratic Party, and upon the judges’ return, the political parties made an agreed-upon statement that if maps were issued by mid-February, a single unified primary could still be held by mid-April.
Also during the hearing, the Attorney General’s attorneys reported to the court that they had been involved in significant negotiations with some of the plaintiff’s groups who filed the lawsuits against the state. The lawyers for the Attorney General indicated that it was a possibility that agreement on maps could be reached between the state and the plaintiff’s groups and that they would work over the weekend and report back to the court on Monday or Tuesday. The Republican Party of Texas has not been invited to participate in these discussions, so we can offer you no details as to the substance of these talks.
After the testimony and statements were taken, the court recessed, returned and issued a unanimous decision. The key points of that decision are as follows:
- They will issue an order suspending the deadlines of the December 16th order.
- They advised the political parties that they can inform party officials and candidates that the February 1st filing deadline will be vacated and that the drawing for ballot positions next week should be postponed.
- They indicated that if the parties could agree on maps and submit those maps by February 6th, that an April 3rd primary was still obtainable. However, the court and the attorneys have been very specific that any agreement is not a settlement.
- That if there was no agreement and maps were not drawn by February 6th, that an April 3rd primary would not take place.
- In the event there is no settlement agreement and maps are not completed by February 6th, the court makes no present indication of when the new primary would be rescheduled.
- In the event the parties cannot agree on new maps, the court requires them to submit advisories to the court as to which districts are still in dispute and the issues related thereto.
- The court will then schedule future hearings if necessary and issue new orders if necessary.
Advisory to all Republican county chairmen, precinct chairmen, and party activists – As it is still a possibility that we will have a single unified primary on April 3rd, you can still continue your plans for an April 3rd primary as best as you can until at least February 6th. By February 6th, we should know whether or not we will have an April 3rd primary. Even if maps are not submitted by February 6th, there is still a possibility that a single unified primary could be held in mid-April if the court can draw maps by mid-February. It is unclear what will happen in the event that maps are not drawn by mid-February. We will let you know as soon as we know. We do expect there to be a new schedule issued with new filing deadlines, etc., once it is clear when the primary will be finally scheduled. The final primary date will not be determined until maps are ready to be issued by the court. This is all we know at the present time. Please stay tuned for further updates from the State Party – we will issue them as soon as we have additional information.
This just in – San Antonio Court cancels Feb 1 filing deadline and Feb 3 ballot drawing. More details to come, probably Monday, as interested parties will be working through the weekend to settle areas of disagreement.
Thanks for all you do. We sincerely appreciate your agility during this very unusual election cycle.
Status Conference Moved Up To Friday, January 27
As we previously reported, last Friday, the Attorney General filed a motion requesting that the three-judge panel in San Antonio reconsider setting the redistricting status conference previously set for February 1st, to an earlier date. The motion stated that such a late conference date could unnecessarily delay obtaining new congressional and legislative district maps, thus putting the April 3rd unified primary date in jeopardy.
Also on Friday, the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) filed an advisory in support of that position (see Friday’s advisory). Over this past weekend, the RPT consulted with numerous organizations representing various counties on the topic of the election calendar and deadlines. After those consultations, RPT filed an additional advisory (see advisory) with the panel on Monday morning, suggesting new election calendar deadlines which would still allow for an April 3rd unified primary (see proposed order). On Sunday, Judge Xavier Rodriguez acknowledged receipt of the filings and ordered that all responses be filed by 10am, Monday, January 23rd. After all parties had filed their responses, Judge Garcia issued a new order on Monday afternoon rescinding his previous order for a February 1st status conference and rescheduling the status conference for Friday, January 27th at 1:00pm. (see order)
The order also instructed all parties to confer and see if they can come up with maps by agreement in sufficient time to still allow the April 3rd primary. The court indicated that if the parties couldn’t agree, that the court wanted the parties to narrow the issues for further discussion. The court also indicated the possibility of having two primaries remained an option if maps could not be drawn in time, with at least the Presidential primary and precinct conventions held on April 3rd, and all other primaries held at a date to be determined in the future. Moreover, the court instructed the parties before the Washington D.C. panel to advise the court of the need for a timely decision in the event their decision would impact the Bexar County panel’s drawing of district lines.
Chairman Steve Munisteri issued the following statement with regard to the court’s latest order. “We are pleased that the Court took note of our concerns that a February 1st hearing unnecessarily delayed the completion of the redistricting process and welcome the court’s decision to move up the hearing by four days. However, the court’s order also indicated that the parties needed to attempt to agree to new maps immediately in order for the court to meet the April 3rd deadline. Since the parties have been involved in contentious litigation, it will be difficult to achieve consensus among all the parties. This fact raises concerns that the process will drag out an inordinate amount of time, thereby again placing the April 3rd unified primary date in jeopardy. Therefore, the RPT will continue to advocate that the court move as swiftly as possible to draw their own maps in accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion. The RPT position will be that a single unified primary in early April is the best possible result, and still obtainable, but the ability to accomplish this rests squarely in the hands of the three-judge panel and the timeliness of their actions.”
Advisory to all Republican county chairmen, precinct chairmen, and party activists – it is still possible that we could have a unified primary election on April 3rd, so therefore, RPT still advises that you proceed with planning as if an April 3rd primary will occur. However, unless the court moves at a faster pace, you should be aware that there is a significant likelihood that the April 3rd unified primary date will either be pushed back further into April, or that the court will order a bifurcated primary with at least a Presidential primary occurring in April and the elections affected by redistricting to be at a later date. It is unclear what would occur to other statewide or countywide contests which are not affected by redistricting. Although the court order did not specifically state this – it seems apparent that the re-opening of the filing period will not occur before February 1st. Therefore, the closing of the filing period will also not be on February 1st, and you should plan accordingly. We should know more after the Friday, January 27th hearing – so please stay tuned for further announcements. Be prepared to be flexible and to react on short notice. We are receiving a tremendous volume of calls and emails from candidates and party officials. Because of the limitation of staff, we request that you only call or write on this issue if you have a question that is not covered by these advisories. We will endeavor to keep you up to date as quickly and as timely as possible.
We are looking for donations for our silent and live auction and also for promotional gift bag items for our annual Reagan, Boots and BBQ fundraiser to be held on February 11, 2011. Click here to download the donation form and return it to one of the email addresses listed or to the HQ. This is a good way to both support your local Republican Party and advertise your business.