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San Antonio Federal Court Releases New Interim Texas Map

A federal three-judge panel in San Antonio released a new interim Texas Congressional map today after both parties failed to produce a compromise following weeks of wrangling in court.

The court-ordered map resembles a February proposal from state Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) that gave Democrats a new district in the Fort Worth area, effectively giving Republicans a 25-to-11 advantage in the Congressional delegation.

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The fate of the Texas 2012 map remained uncertain for weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in January that the San Antonio court overstepped its boundaries with its original proposal for an interim map. There are several seats at stake on the new Texas map, which increased by four House districts due to explosive population growth, mostly in the Hispanic community.

Texas officials were forced to delay their primary twice while maps worked their way through two separate court systems. The San Antonio court released a revised interim map just in time for both parties to hold their primary on May 29.

Under the court-ordered interim map, Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s (D) intended district extends south from Austin to San Antonio, which means he could have a tough primary in the Hispanic-majority, heavily Democratic district.

In a statement from his office, Doggett indicated he’d seek re-election in the 35th district, saying his “service fits well with the neighborhoods that have now been joined from South San Antonio to North Austin.”

The court drew a new Hispanic-majority seat in the Dallas-Forth Worth area, which Democrats will likely pick up.

But in a boost to Republicans, the two vulnerable GOP freshmen, Reps. Francisco “Quico” Canseco and Blake Farenthold, saw their districts improve. According to GOP analysis of the interim map obtained by Roll Call, Canseco’s redrawn 23rd district slightly improved and Farenthold’s 27th district greatly improved in terms of their share of Republican voters.

Additionally, the court drew the 34th district as a Hispanic-majority seat. The court also drew a new GOP seat east of Houston, the 36th district.

Meanwhile, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia continues to mull its ruling on pre-clearance for the original map passed by the Legislature last summer. Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas is one of several states that must get federal approval before the state makes any changes to its voting laws, including new maps.

In an accompanying message about the map, the San Antonio court cautioned that the interim map “is not a final ruling on the merits of any claims asserted by the Plaintiffs in this case or any of the other cases consolidated with this case.”

“Rather, this interim plan is a result of preliminary determinations regarding the merits of the Section 2 and constitutional claims presented in this case, and application of the ‘not insubstantial’ standard for the Section 5 claims, as required by the Supreme Court’s decision in Perry v. Perez,” the three-judge panel wrote.

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