Closing arguments made in Texas redistricting case

Associated Press

Attorneys for the Justice Department and state of Texas are making their closing arguments in a Washington courtroom over whether electoral maps crafted by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature violate the Voting Rights Act.

The three-judge panel has listened to two weeks of testimony and must decide whether the new maps of the state's legislative and congressional districts violate a section of the federal statute that requires pre-approval from the Justice Department for states with a history of racial discrimination.

Texas is one of nine, mostly southern states that require so-called "pre-clearance."

The Justice Department and a coalition of minority groups argue that Texas lawmakers recut several districts to dilute minority voting power. The state denies the claim and maintains the new districts were designed to solidify and improve Republican chances.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A fight over the redrawing of Texas' political maps that's shuttled from Washington to San Antonio returns to Washington on Tuesday for closing arguments in a trial to determine whether the maps drawn by the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

A three-judge panel has listened

The Justice Department has argued _ along with a coalition of minority groups _ that Texas lawmakers recut several districts in a way that was designed to dilute minority voting power. The state has, in essence pled politics: It maintains that lawmakers cut districts to solidify and improve Republican chances but did not do so with the intent to suppress minority voters.

The Justice Department and the state of Texas will have one hour each to make closing arguments on Tuesday. Each of the minority groups will have 15 minutes each to argue to the judges.

The trial in Washington has continued even as attention from all sides has shifted to another federal court in San Antonio. After the U.S. Supreme Court rejected interim maps the court initially drew, it asked the San Antonio court to redraw maps with more deference to the map originally drawn by the Texas Legislature.

Proceedings will go ahead in Washington amid continued uncertainty about Texas' elections.

On Monday, an attorney for one of the nine groups that have sued to block the redistricting maps said settlement talks between the state and groups that have opposed the maps have stalled. That puts Texas' April 3 primaries in serious jeopardy.

In both proceedings, there's a lot on the line.

Texas will add four seats to its congressional delegation in 2012 because of adjustments made with 2010 census data. Both Democrats and Republicans believe the state will be an important factor in the battle for control of the U.S. House. Adjustments in Texas House and Senate maps could also affect the balance of power in the Legislature, though Republicans will almost certainly maintain control of both.

Judges have heard hours of testimony from Texas lawmakers, members of Congress, Texas House and Senate staff and redistricting experts. In addition, the judges will consider thousands of pages of pre-filed evidence from the two sides.

The presiding judge in the Washington case, Rosemary Collyer, moved up closing arguments to Tuesday so both parties could turn their attention to the San Antonio court. A series of filings from both sides will be due shortly after.