A federal court said Friday it will not delay Texas' primary elections and ordered the state to use political maps drawn by the Legislature — but only temporarily, while the judges sort out a complex and possibly precedent-setting lawsuit.
The three-judge panel in San Antonio gave both sides in the lawsuit over Texas' voting maps reason to claim victory. The court will not draw its own map for the 2014 elections, as civil rights groups wanted, but it also did not throw out the lawsuit completely, as Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott requested.
The court order, signed by all three judges, also allows the civil rights and minority groups to argue that all changes to Texas election law should be reviewed by federal authorities before they can be implemented. The Justice Department has sought to intervene in the case after a recent Supreme Court decision requiring Congress to make changes to the Voting Rights Act.
The fundamental issue of the lawsuit, filed in 2011, is whether the Legislature illegally drew political maps that intentionally diminish the voting power of minorities in Texas. Abbott's office has argued in court papers that Republicans who control the Legislature drew maps to boost the chances of their party — which is legal — and that if minorities who vote predominantly Democratic are hurt as a result, that does not constitute a civil rights violation.