State Senators Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) and Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) filed suit today in an Austin federal court seeking to block the Legislature from drawing new maps for state House and Senate seats during an expected special session later this month. At issue in Gutierrez v. Abbott is the construction of Art. 3, §28, Texas Constitution, which reads in pertinent part: “The Legislature shall, at its first regular session after the publication of each United States decennial census, apportion the state into senatorial and representative districts . . . ” This provision further provides that if the Legislature fails to act during the regular session, the Legislative Redistricting Board shall draw the maps, but its jurisdiction is limited to acting within 60 days of convening. The LRB must convene within 90 days of the conclusion of the regular session.
The complaint, as might be imagined, alleges that because the COVID-delayed census was not published until August 12, the next regular session at which the Legislature may act will occur in 2023. The LRB’s jurisdiction depends on the Legislature’s failure to act in the regular session, so it may not act either. The complaint asks the court to enjoin legislative reapportionment during any special session between now and January 2023, and to draw interim maps for use in the 2022 election cycle.
The filing deadline for the March 1, 2022 party primaries is December 13, meaning that whoever draws the maps will have to hurry. Moreover, whether the Legislature or a federal court does it in the first instance, lawsuits challenging the maps will quickly follow. Even delaying the primary until May is no guarantee that permanent maps will be used for next year’s legislative elections. Let the decennial games begin.
To view a copy of the complaint, click here: https://static.texastribune.org/media/files/c1e8ba8da50bacacc260fea1fd3d9f6d/Gutierrez%20v%20Abbott%20-%20Original%20Complaint.pdf