Federal judge to draw Harris Co. redistricting map

November 15, 2011 5:00:43 PM PST
The battle over county redistricting lines is being hashed out in court. The county is up against a deadline to get the lines redrawn. A Hispanic group had complained saying the map didn't give fair representation.

The trial wrapped Tuesday, but it's now up to a federal judge to draw Harris County's redistricting map, and we have no idea when that will be done.

In her newly opened East End cafe, Yolanda Navarro likes to serve her coffee with a side of political gossip. These days, she's keeping a close watch over the redistricting battle in federal court.

"If we really want to be sincere about what we mean in terms of government and the ability to represent all, you can't represent all if don't have all inclusive in your elected officials and I think it's important that we consider that," she said.

Navarro says she wants to vote for a county commissioner of her choice in Precinct 2 and it's that minority opportunity that's caused several plaintiffs, including City Council Member James Rodriguez, to file suit.

"We disagree with the numbers and the lines they have now; we want to make sure that we at least preserve Precinct 2 as a Latino-opportunity district and not regress," Rodriguez said.

As the trial got underway on Tuesday, the plaintiffs argued that the map passed by Commissioners Court simply does not protect Latino voting rights. They prefer a vastly different map to divide up Harris County precincts.

But the defendant, which is Harris County, argue the map they have is sufficient.

In reality, it will be up to Judge Vanessa Gilmore to find a conclusion, which will most likely be a court-drawn map that's somewhere in the middle.

"This is an expensive process, but the other is, we've got four million people in Harris County, Texas and it's worth it; I mean, equal rights under the law are worth it," First Assistant Harris County Attorney Terry O'Rourke said.. Back at the cafe, Navarro says she'd like a decision and a fair one.

"We need to have more people to get out and vote, but it's getting better," she said.

Now the judge will hire a special master to go through all the math and intricacies it takes to draw a map. That's expected to happen by Wednesday.

The latest they have to get a map finished is by early next week because the filing deadline starts right after Thanksgiving.

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