A three-judge federal panel in San Antonio has moved to dismiss claims of political gerrymandering against the legislative and congressional electoral maps adopted by the Legislature last year.
In doing so, the judges said the plaintiffs challenging the states' maps failed to establish a standard by which gerrymandering claims could be judged. In the order, the judges noted that the plaintiffs wanted to develop the standard at trial. But, the judges wrote, "simply saying that a partisan gerrymander is an illegal partisan gerrymander because it is so extreme is not a 'clear, manageable, and politically neutral standard' for measuring the burden on representation rights. It is merely a conclusion. And as noted, the totality of the circumstances and proportional representation approaches have previously been rejected."
Furthermore, "development of a clear, manageable, and politically neutral standard for measuring the burden on representational rights should not depend" on what emerges at trial, the judges wrote. "Rather, the development of facts should alter only the application of the established standard and the ultimate conclusion from such application."
The court also denied the state's attempt to dismiss claims against the Legislature's redistricting maps of 2011 as moot. The state has argued that the passage of the new maps last year — which incorporated much of what the San Antonio panel drew in a 2012 set of interim maps — repealed the 2011 maps, making them irrelevant to the current legal fight.
However, the judges wrote that "the State has steadfastly maintained the legality of all of the challenged conduct and has not announced any policy change that would preclude the Legislature from engaging in the same alleged wrongful conduct. Evidence submitted by Plaintiffs and the United States indicates that the Legislature adopted the 2013 plans at least in part in an attempt to end this particular litigation, not because it conceded the any of its actions were wrongful or because it had abandoned any intent to engage in the same conduct."
As such, the judges determined the legality of the 2011 maps are still relevant to the ongoing challenge.