Monday, January 30, 2012

A week's worth of Mexican sweat

Via Democratic Blog News, the Austin Chronicle (their emphasis):

There were rumors floating around all weekend that there could be a deal struck as early as today, but with all parties heading to DC to catch closing arguments in the preclearance hearing tomorrow, Jan. 31, that seems unlikely. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus told the Chronicle this morning that a deal is not imminent, even though they are all working towards some kind of agreement.

MALC (and particularly chair Rep. Trez Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio) and MALDEF are clearly most interested in creating the largest number possible of Hispanic opportunity districts. However, that could clash severely with both the interests of the other plaintiffs (many of whom are looking for more Democratic opportunity seats) and the historic coalition between African-American and Hispanic groups. Throughout this process, LULAC and the NAACP have been very much on the same page, and have not always been in complete agreement with MALC and MALDEF.

You may also recall the reports last month that African American legislators and associated interest groups don't care much for districts drawn to favor Latinos in somewhat exclusive manner. There's a rich quote from bloghermano Greg Wythe here with respect to that. Continuing...

And what about the time table? The problem with any deal is that the San Antonio panel ordered that there has to be unanimity between the parties, or all contested districts have to be submitted to be redrawn. The state's seeming desperation to avoid shifting the primaries again might add some strength to the plaintiffs' side of the table, as they can extract more as the state keeps clock-watching to hit that Feb. 6 deadline. As Martinez-Fischer told the Associated Press, the state is willing to negotiate and "something’s motivating that."

The time crunch means the plaintiffs can dangle the equal representation terms of Section Two of the Voting Rights Act over the assembled heads of Attorney General Greg Abbott's team. However, the DC District Court is expected to rule this week on whether the legislature's maps violate the preclearance terms of Section Five of the VRA. There are undoubtedly voices in the room suggesting that the plaintiffs would be in a much stronger negotiating position – and that the state would have little legal wiggle room – if they just wait a couple more days.

And the most recent update to that post has this (with my emphasis now):

...LULAC attorney Luis Roberto Vera, Jr. confirmed that his clients (who are still pushing for coalition districts) want to wait for the DC ruling, and that was the stated position of all plaintiffs to the San Antonio panel before this weekend. "As to negotiations," he wrote, "they have totally broken down as of now. I am sure they will resume but I doubt an agreement if at all by this Monday so I don't expect an April 3rd election."

If this is going to settle out at all, it will be the Republicans giving something up of significant value. Some reports indicate that Abbott is trying to sow discord among the plaintiffs but it doesn't look like that's working.

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