To readers outside of Texas, I apologize in advance. But Texas politicos felt a great disturbance in the force Friday night, as if a thousand county chairs were crying out as one, when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the legislative and Congressional redistricting maps, and appeared to have taken jurisdiction over everything. Here’s the one-page order.
I haven’t talked to a single redistricting lawyer tonight – they’re all busy conferring with each other, no doubt. But as a guy who has been through redistricting so many times that I can’t think about it very long without being ashamed of myself for still being in this business, here are my initial thoughts on what this means:
— First, we don’t really know what this means. But from Democrats’ perspective, it can’t exactly be great news.
— Second, If somebody tonight is explaining to you what it means, that’s probably because he’s a consultant, you’re paying him, and as a result he feels a duty to sound smart. Nobody knows what it means. But keep this in mind: it takes fewer Supreme Court Justices to accept a case than it does to issue a majority ruling on a case, so after it’s all said and done, we may end up with the exact same maps the Federal Court in San Antonio ordered. Or, we may not. It may be a sign that Justice Scalia has seen this as his big opportunity to do away with Sec. 5 of the Voting Rights Act, or it may be a hiccup in which Justices merely want to know more.
— at this point, there is no way to tell what the filing deadline is, whether current filings mean anything, when the primary election might be held, or when a primary run-off might occur. And, of course, we don’t know what the maps will look like, although they could look exactly like the maps we thought folks would be running under yesterday.
— I do think, given that the oral arguments for this case aren’t until January 9, that it is extremely likely that Texas could ultimately have a split primary election next year, with the Presidential primaries on one date, and everything else on a subsequent date. This also means that everybody’s primary election turn-out models could be moot. We spent all year assuming we’d have the typical Presidential year boost in turnout, and may end up with city council run-off-style low turnout, given the absence of a Presidential primary, or even high profile statewide races on the same ballot.
Most of all, however, I think that politicos of both Parties and all ilk should follow this one simple instruction: chill out. Without a doubt, lawyers and judges will soon be holding telephonic hearings, during which clarifications will be given, guidance be shared, and more will be revealed. Until then, there is simply nothing anyone can do besides enjoy their weekend.