AUSTIN — On Monday, candidates for state office began submitting applications for their election bid after a three-judge panel created new Texas House and Senate redistricting maps. While the new maps will be used in upcoming elections, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed an emergency stay application with the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the implementation of the maps he called “legally flawed.”
“Today’s appeal emphasizes that no court has, at any time, found anything unlawful about the redistricting maps passed by the Texas Legislature,” Abbott said on Monday. “It is judicial activism at its worst for judges to draw redistricting maps of their own choosing despite no finding of wrongdoing by the State of Texas.”
Abbott said the main concern is whether the interim maps imposed by a San Antonio three-judge redistricting panel violate the U.S. Constitution and federal law and exceeds the proper role of the judiciary.
Following the release of the 2010 U.S. Census results, the state began redistricting plans to accommodate for state growth. Democrats and Latino groups criticized the Republican-dominated Legislature created maps claiming the nearly 65 percent boom in the Hispanic population lacked equitable representation in the new maps and that maps were created to favor Republican candidates.
The state alleges the panel improperly rejected the will of the elected legislature and redrew the state’s House and Senate districts without regard to any established legal or constitutional principles, Abbott said.
“Because the district court did not identify an instance in which the legislatively enacted Texas House map likely violated federal law, it should not have altered the map,” states the state’s brief.
State officials said the district court created a race-based map that was politically “tinged.”
“The Texas Legislature drew maps that attempted to protect Hispanic Republican incumbents. However, the court drew a map that would replace those officeholders with Hispanic Democrats,” a statement from Abbott’s office states. “Such outcome-oriented decision making is outside the province of the federal courts.”
Abbott said he wants to quickly restore clarity to the process, claiming candidates may be confused over which district they belong to.
In a statement announcing the emergency stay application, Abbott said only one judge, Judge Jerry Smith of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, had considered the Legislature’s redistricting plan.
Abbott said Smith agreed that the interim Texas House of Representatives map proposed by judges in San Antonio is legally flawed. In particular, he stated that the two-judge majority opinion “produced a runaway plan that imposes an extreme redistricting scheme for the Texas House of Representatives, untethered to the applicable caselaw.”
Additionally, he said that imposing the majority plan “is grave error at the preliminary, interim stage of the redistricting process.” Ultimately, the “plan is far reaching and extreme. It expands the role of a three-judge interim court well beyond what is legal, practical, or fair.”
Abbott also announced the state would work with Paul Clement, an appellate lawyer and former Solicitor General of the United States. He has argued over 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and has argued more cases since 2000 than any other advocate.
He joined Abbott in successfully arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the Ten Commandments monument on the Texas Capitol Grounds. He is currently representing Texas and 25 other states in their legal challenge to ObamaCare that is currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.
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