Local Republicans, Democrats split over Supreme Court's ruling

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Jan. 21, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 20, 2012 at 7:21 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to throw out electoral maps Friday morning will soon come to a head - at least that is how Victoria County Election Administrator George Matthews sees it.

The longer the struggle to redistrict the maps, the madder the rush will be to prepare for the April 3 primary, Matthews said.

"We're already a couple of months behind," he said.

Typically, the elections office mails out voter registration in early December and ballots in mid-January, but this election year, this has not been the case.

"At this point, I'm just going to wait for the courts to make a decision until I start worrying," he added.

The 2010 census found Texas added more than 4 million residents - primarily Hispanics and blacks - since the 2000 census. This resulted in the addition of four districts to the state for a total of 36 seats.

This is the second time redistricting maps have been thrown out.

In early December, State Rep. Geanie Morrison, District 30, announced she would not file for re-election because at that time a three-judge panel in San Antonio had redrawn the maps, which put her in District 32, which she did not want.

However, several weeks later, the possibility of those maps being thrown out during the legal dispute with the courts was likely, so she filed for re-election for District 30.

Friday's ruling proved that the three-judge panel overstepped its authority and that she made the right decision about re-filing.

"I'm just really pleased with the Supreme Court's ruling," Morrison said. "It's the Legislature's responsibility to redistrict, not the court's."

It's no surprise the issue of redistricting has occupied many minds as because it has gone back and forth, resulting in pushing back a primary election date from March 6 to April 3.

But could the drawn-out redistricting upheaval affect voters?

"I think the hardest thing has been keeping up with so many different lawsuits and entities," Morrison said. "I think everyone is anxious just to have this resolved so we can more forward."

Michael Cloud, the Victoria County Republican Party chairman, agreed with Morrison.

Cloud, too, believes the Supreme Court made the right decision.

"We've said all along that this was a complete overreach of their (the three-judge panel's) authority," Cloud said, adding the redistricting dispute has affected the voting process. "It's certainly muddied up our primary process," he said

Kelli Gill, the Victoria County Democratic Party chairwoman, feels otherwise.

"It's really sad that all this is happening right now," she said.

Gill said the redistricting problem could have been avoided had the Republican-led state Legislature followed Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Section 5 states that the U.S. Department of Justice must pre-clear any attempts to change any voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, and that the change will not discriminate based on race or color.

Gill said the act was violated.

"The redistricting problem has caused confusion to the voters and to the candidates," she said. "It's a big headache right now."



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