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The Brief: Sept. 20, 2012

With Election Day drawing near, court action on Wednesday helped provide some clarity in two lingering voting-rights disputes.

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The Big Conversation:

With Election Day drawing near, court action on Wednesday helped provide some clarity in two lingering voting-rights disputes.

In the higher-profile case, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to postpone Texas' congressional elections, dealing a blow to a Hispanic civil rights organization that claimed the maps diluted minority voting strength.

The group, the League of United Latin American Citizens, had challenged the state's temporary maps, which a three-judge panel drew last year while the state's original maps, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, were held up in court. LULAC argued that the interim maps too closely resembled the original maps, which a federal court struck down late last month, setting the state up for a possible fight at the Supreme Court later this year.

The court's denial — which was widely expected, especially given the short amount of time before November — effectively allows Texas' 2012 elections to proceed as usual.

In the other case, a state district judge on Wednesday temporarily prevented the state from ordering counties to purge possibly dead individuals from their voter rolls.

A new state law requires counties to conduct regular purges of dead voters, but the practice underwent scrutiny last week after hundreds of voters, mostly in Harris and Travis counties, began complaining that they'd received letters asking them to confirm that they weren't dead.

Harris County's voter registrar responded to the complaints by delaying the purge, but the state balked, blocking $700,000 in voter registration funds for the county, only to restore the funding on Wednesday after the county agreed to use a more reliable set of data.

The judge, whose ruling came shortly after the agreement was reached, said he wouldn't order counties to revoke letters that had already been sent out. But he wrote in his ruling that the state was "restrained from further instructing the counties to remove any other names from the voter rolls."

Culled:

  • Several high-profile Texas Republicans — including Gov. Rick Perry and U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn — will appear at fundraising events for Ted Cruz in the coming weeks, the Houston Chronicle reports. Even Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Cruz's erstwhile primary rival, will attend a fundraiser for the candidate in Houston next week. Meanwhile, Paul Sadler, Cruz's Democratic opponent, has released a poll showing him behind Cruz by 17 points. The Sadler campaign, though, portrayed the candidate's low name recognition — 72 percent of respondents said they didn't know who he was or declined to answer — as a plus. "There is nothing but good news in the poll," Sadler campaign manager Doug Dodson told the Chronicle. "If we tell the Paul Sadler story and voters learn the truth that’s behind Ted Cruz, this horse race is dead even."
  • According to new Census Bureau data, Texas' major metropolitan areas recorded mixed economic numbers in 2011. In North Texas, for instance, median household income fell since 2010, but median earnings per worker rose, bucking a national trend. In Houston, median income rose, but so did the poverty rate. And in Austin, the poverty rate fell, but the percentage of children living in poverty rose.
  • Conservative radio show host Glenn Beck had high praise for Rick Perry during the governor's appearance on his program Tuesday, as the Houston Chronicle reports. Perry is "becoming more and more remarkable every day," Beck said, adding "He's smarter than I am." In a 10-minute interview with the former Fox News personality, who now lives in Texas, Perry also mentioned that the University of Texas System owned "a billion dollars in actual gold," which he said he was "very much in favor" of moving from New York to Texas.

"Satan runs across the world with his doubt and with his untruths and what have you, and one of the untruths out there that is driven is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena." — Rick Perry during a conference call with conservative Christians on Tuesday

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