(The expert weights in with answers to your redistricting questions. - promoted by Katherine Haenschen)
Who's up or down on seats?
It depends on how you count seats.
On the congressional map, Republicans are claiming that the map results in a 2-2 split of the state's new congressional districts and gives them 25 out of 36 seats overall.
A number of the redistricting plaintiffs say, though, the Republican count is disingenuous and that the court's congressional map actually fails to create any new minority seats.
They argue that while the map, on the surface, creates three new minority seats (CD-33, CD-34, and CD-35), it also takes away two current districts (CD-25 and CD-27) where minorities have been successful in electing their candidates of choice and additionally weakens a third district (CD-23) to the point it may not perform. As a result, they say minorities end up with the same 11 or 12 seats they would have after a normal, non-wave election.
On the state house map, Republicans say the map results give them 94 seats where the average Republican performance is 55% or better - down from 98 in the map the Legislature passed.
Redistricting plaintiffs and Democrats have expressed disappointment that the court didn't go further in addressing what they say was significant intentional fragmentation of minority communities in the map as well as improper use of population variances between districts to overpopulate minority districts.
But while fixing those issues would have resulted in more districts in places like Bell County and Fort Bend County where minorities would immediately control the result, it's not clear that the interim map, even if it were to become to permanent map, is necessarily a long-term boon for Republicans.
In Dallas County, for example, where the Legislature's map was adopted whole cloth, a large number of districts are ones where Republicans get only 52% or so of the vote. With demographic change over the next decade (Dallas County will be only about 22% Anglo in 2020 by some estimates), many of those seats will be harder to defend than if the court had created a few additional minority heavy districts.
The only map where the count is not really disputed is the state senate map and that's because only one district - SD-10 - was at issue. The new court-ordered map preserves SD-10 in its pre-redistricting form and gives Democrats the chance to keep the chamber's balance at 19R-12D, depending on whether State Sen. Wendy Davis wins re-election.
Do the new interim maps need to be precleared under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?
Yes. Since the maps reflect state policy choices, they will need to be submitted for review either to the Justice Department or to the three-judge panel in Washington that tried the preclearance case.
Tim Mellett of the Justice Department said at hearings two weeks ago that DOJ is prepared to examine the maps under its expedited review process and that the process could be concluded in time for a May 29 primary.
The assumption of most observers is that the state will submit the maps to DOJ rather than the three-judge panel in Washington. However, the decision ultimately will be Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's call.
Regardless, expect candidate filing and election preparations to go forward, pending preclearance.
Of course, we could be back in court if, for some reason, DOJ - or the DC court - denies preclearance.
Could a party appeal the interim maps?
Yes, dissatisfied parties (ranging from minority groups to Congressman Joe Barton) could ask the Supreme Court to review the maps and the court's explanation for doing what it did.
However, unless the Supreme Court grants a stay and/or sets the appeal on an expedited schedule, election would go forward using the interim maps - assuming, of course, that the maps are precleared.
A stay request to the Supreme Court likely would be referred to the court as a whole to consider. If that happens, it would take five justices to grant a stay.
Could the map process be reopened after the D.C. court issues its ruling in the preclearance trial?
Yes, particularly if the D.C. court's opinion differs materially from where the San Antonio court ended up in its analysis of section 5 issues (e.g., if the D.C. court decides that CD-25 is a protected district).
But the San Antonio court would have to decide whether any issues raised by the D.C. court's opinion are significant enough to warrant reopening the process or whether to simply order the election to proceed using the interim maps for the 2012 cycle.
What the court does is likely to be driven not only by what the D.C. court's opinion says but by when the decision comes out.
The D.C. court said back in early February that it did not expect to rule for "at least 30 days," but it did not give a definitive date. If the court's ruling comes out shortly (think: Friday or early next week), it would be possible to adjust maps and have a June 26 primary if not a May primary.
But if revised maps can't be done by March 31, then a June 26 primary would be hard, if not impossible, to accomplish.
And a primary any later would run into conflicts with the parties' national convention schedule and perhaps more critically would push runoffs into late September/early October.
In that case, the San Antonio court very well could chose to redraw the maps but make them effective in 2014 instead of 2012.
Any best guess on the primary date?
May 29 looks likely to be the date by all accounts.
There are still some potential hiccups that might be caused by appeals, the impact of the D.C. court's ruling, and the need to have the new interim maps precleared, but expect an order later this week setting a May 29 primary - and July 31 (or early August) runoff - with the rest to be sorted out in the coming weeks.
When will we know the schedule for doing things like ballot draws, redrawing precinct lines, mailing ballots, etc.?
The Democratic and Republican parties are due to submit a proposed election schedule detailing all those things by 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 29.
Could we really have to go through all this again in the 2013 legislative session?
That's what some Republicans are suggesting - at least on a limited basis. But it remains to be seen whether the Legislature has the stomach for it.
If a week is a long time in politics, then 2013 is light years away.