To avoid confusion and uncertainty, the state’s 2016 elections for Congress and the Texas House will proceed under the current political maps, a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio said late Friday.
The court previously approved maps for use in Texas Senate races, but the lines for congressional and state House districts remain under legal challenge.
While the judges are deciding those challenges, however, the election deadlines loom: Candidates will begin filing to run for office on Nov. 14 in advance of primary elections on March 1 of next year.
The courts have been known to move election and filing dates; in 2012, the primaries were moved from March to May, disrupting the normal political cycle in the state.
But in a seven-page order on Friday, the judges said they will not disturb the 2016 elections. “... the court finds that the status quo should not be altered ... The 2016 election will proceed as scheduled, without interruption of delay, under plans H358 and C235 [the plans used in the previous election],” the judges wrote.
The judges did not give their approval to the lines used in those maps, saying only that they will remain in use for the 2016 elections. The disruption of changing things now, they ruled, would cause more harm than good.
“Even if movants could show a likelihood of success on the merits, the Court must balance the need to protect voting rights that may be affected by the 2013 plans with the need to avoid the adverse effect on voting rights that comes with delay and confusion during election time,” the three judges — Jerry Smith, Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez — wrote.
“If the Court enjoined the 2013 enacted plans and imposed yet another set of interim plans for the 2016 election, the shifting district and precinct lines would leave candidates in limbo, voters confused, and election officials with the burden of implementing new maps in a timely manner with very limited resources. It would be extremely difficult to implement new interim plans without tremendous interruption to the 2016 election schedule.”