Redistricting Changes Keep Election Coordinators Busy - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

01/06/04 - Nacogdoches

Redistricting Changes Keep Election Coordinators Busy

A three-judge federal panel in Austin has approved the new Texas redistricting map.

The judges say democrats who filed a lawsuit to stop the map did not prove that it would be harmful to minorities or that it violated the federal voting rights act.

Democrats will now appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court. But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott says he does not expect the Supreme Court to overturn Tuesday's ruling.

The redistricting debate led to some nasty battles in the state legislature last year including some Democrats going to Oklahoma and New Mexico to try and prevent the map being voted on. But the republican majority ultimately won out.

Currently Democrats hold a 17-15 majority in the Texas Congressional delegation.

But last week long-time Northeast Texas Congressman Ralph Hall announced he was switching from the Democratic to the Republican party. That would make in an even 16-16 split.

And the new map could give Republicans a 23-to-9 advantage after this year's election. The GOP says the new districts more accurately reflect the state's voting patterns.

Republicans hold every major office in the state.

Democratic Congressman Jim Turner of Crockett, who represents much of East Texas, has said he would not seek re-election under the new map.

The decision does allow election judges to resume their preparation for the March primary. The mass mailing of hundreds of voter registration cards had been halted until the federal judges reached a decision about the redistricting map.

Voters should soon be receiving their cards in the mail according to Nacogdoches County Election Coordinator Debra Gaston.

"I will assure voters they will be in the mail as soon as the court order January 11th deadline has expired. We are working right now preparing the cards for the mass mailout," said Gaston.

Gaston says she'll be quite busy playing catch up in preparing for the March primary. The delay has caused a domino effect on all the other requirements she must meet before the March 9th election.

The ruling means Texas congressional candidates who filed for the March primary using the old map will have to refile under the districts of the new map. They now have until January 16th to do so.

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